Margin Call DVD Review

In bringing the recent, catastrophic global financial disaster to the screen, writer and director J C Chandor has painted his tale of greed, excess and filthy lucre in muted, yet transfixing shades of grey. Set in the offices of a high-stakes, do-or-die New York investment firm on the eve of the meltdown, Margin Call plays out as an intriguing financial thriller, moments before the fiscal bubble well and truly bursts.

After being ignominiously shepherded from his office following a round of ruthless redundancies, risk manager Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) bestows a USB stick containing restricted information upon low-level analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) with the instruction to ‘be careful’. After an evening at the financial coal-face Peter discovers that the institution for which he works, the world of wheeling, dealing, of promises bought and dreams sold, is nought but a house built upon sand. The wheels begin falling off and the rest is history.

In making a movie which deals with the convoluted and often baffling world of global finance, arguably the greatest challenge facing J C Chandor is in making the material palatable for the layperson. In this regard Margin Call plays a very shrewd game in keeping its subject matter suitably woolly, yet fundamentally coherent. There’s a minimum of time spent fleshing out the tedious details of the banking conundrum; instead characters bulldoze the equations and cut to the chase, cutting out the jargon rather than attempting to wade through it. As CEO of the beleaguered firm Jeremy Irons instructs his subjects to “…explain it as you would a small child; or a golden retriever”.

Interestingly there’s also a general lack of moralising, and a reluctance to portray the assorted gaggle of high-flyers as pantomime villains or stuck-in-the-middle men. Altruistic they most certainly aren’t, but it’s recognisably a different world to the coke-fuelled yuppie-dom of American Psycho or the ‘greed is good’ mantra of Wall Street. Kevin Spacey’s old-timer grows a conscience of sorts, Stanley Tucci laments a past-life of honest-to-goodness endeavour, while Paul Bettany’s jaded-yet-hungry trader provides the best look at both sides of a grubby coin in a late sermon, exclaiming the middle-classes can’t have their cake and eat it, before sarcastically and unfeelingly declaring: “they’re all fucked”.

The end result is a tense, fractious and utterly gripping film with a knee-jerk free examination of an obscure, devastating and infuriating subject; and a fine ensemble which is complimented by a script largely free of bombast.
Extras on the DVD consist of two deleted scenes with optional commentary, photo gallery, a making of, behind the scenes and an audio commentary with J C Chandor and producer Neal Dodson.

Chris Banks

★★★★

Rating:15
DVD/BD Release Date:12th November 2012 (UK)
Directed By: J.C. Chandor
Cast:Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci , Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Simon Baker
Pre-Order/Buy Margin Call:Blu-ray/DVD

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