We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
It may have happened something like this. "Margin Call" depicts the last night of good times on Wall Street, as a deadly certainty travels up the executive ladder at an investment firm: Disastrous speculation in the mortgage markets is leading to the firm's collapse. We can still recall those days in the summer of 2008, during the Obama-McCain campaign, when America seemed awash in prosperity, and the stock market was setting records. Then one firm after another was forced to declare bankruptcy, the nation's economic structure was threatened, and Congress ponied up its huge bailout.
"Margin Call" begins on a day at an unnamed investment firm that must certainly have an inkling of what's coming, since 80 percent of the work force is laid off. One of the victims is Eric (Stanley Tucci), a senior risks analyst who like many of his colleagues was incapable of seeing that the real estate market was built as a house of cards. Although writer-director J.C. Chandor's film has sympathy for most of its characters, it is important to remember that they all felt they had to play along with the deals that were bringing their firms such huge profits and bonuses.
On his way out the door, Eric slips a USB drive to Peter (Zachary Quinto), a younger analyst who wasn't fired. There's information on it that disturbs him. So it should. While the office is empty, and the survivors are out partying to celebrate not being fired, Peter realizes the firm and the market are clearly trembling on the brink. He contacts his supervisor, Will (Paul Bettany), who takes one look and calls his boss, Sam (Kevin Spacey). Others are called in for an all-night emergency meeting until at dawn as a helicopter brings in CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons).
You don't need to understand a lot about the markets to follow the film. John is a cool, polished Brit who likes to say things like, "Speak to me in plain terms," because his job requires him to manage the corporation but not necessarily understand its business. Indeed, as we now know, a fresh young college graduate could have looked at the balance sheets and clearly seen Wall Street was doomed.