Scary movies come in all shapes and sizes. There’s the Neve Campbell/ Court-
ney Cox collection ; the Mike Myers and Jason series; big scares come in small packages
when it comes to Chucky; the Final Destination era keeps going; and we simply cannot
forget about wrinkle faced Freddy. Despite their “scare”- ability and the knack they have
for making us unnerved afterwards(sometimes years later),we continue to watch them
because we either like them or like being frightened.
Margin Call is another type of contemporary fright fest where the terror is so
real, it would shock Ghostface into dropping his knife and knock off Freddy’s night-
mares as nothing more than innocent kids’ dreams. It’s the story of a fictional Wall
Street company (supposedly based on Lehman Brothers) precariously ensconced in a
fearful, factual environment- the 2008 stock market crash. Real scares are one thing. Real
money and finances are things we all deal with. And they are infinitely more frightening.
Any highly paid white collar worker who has lost their job will immediately rec-
ognize (with dread), that familiar group of “people” from the start who march onto one of
the trading floors of this financial company with anything but happy faces. You realize
immediately some employees are getting the axe.
One of the first casualties is Stanley Tucci’s Eric Dale of risk management. He
is, ostensibly, a major player in this firm, so naturally he’s looks bewildered as two ladies
speak to him about a severance package and letting him go. And of course there’s a
nasty little condition that says he has 24 hours to accept the severance package or
it will be revoked. His options couldn’t be fewer. But before he makes that last eleva-
tor ride, he hands a USB drive to one of his jr. analysts, Peter Sullivan(Zachary Quinto),
telling him that it was something he was working on and couldn’t finish it. “Take a look
at it”, he says. Then, right before the doors close, he warns, “Be careful.”
Sullivan, having no idea what Dale meant by that statement, is burning the prover-
bial midnight oil while two of his co-workers Will(Paul Bettany) and Seth (Penn Badg-
ley), leave for the night to attend a local club, celebrating their escape from termination.
When he looks at the data on the flash drive and fills in the blanks that Dale could not,
the information on screen is so astounding, he calls them both back in. Definitely not
Dale had been probing through the firm’s Mortgage Backed Securities, major, cru-
cial assets to it’s foundation. He determined, all intricate financial details aside, the bot-
tom has not only dropped out already, but is continuing to drop at an alarming rate. This
ship has been sinking for awhile, and no one’s noticed.
Resolute panic ensues naturally with all the execs being summoned, including 34
year veteran Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore), Jared Cohen
(Simon Baker) and eventually, head impresario himself, CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons)
who flies in via helicopter. They all sit at the conference table looking soberly at one an-
other to discuss what’s happening to the firm.
Peter takes center stage for a bit since he did all the figuring and, at Tuld’s request,
gives him the bare facts, to which Tuld responds with “There are three ways to make a
living in this business. Be first, be smarter, or cheat.” It doesn’t take a financial genius to
figure out which option he goes for. Basically, it’s time to cut their losses-unfortunately
at the expense of their investors.
Director/writer J.C. Chandor channels his veteran skills of commercials and docu-
mentaries into a debut feature film that is suspenseful as well as dramatic. With an in-
credibly talented ensemble mix of experienced and up and coming actors, Chandor es-
tablishes the balance he needs to tell a true story of basic greed that makes you angry,
yet manages to elicit some laughter at some of the poor souls who lost so much.
In less than two hours all of our players get to shine, no domineering or upstaging as
they all deal with this crisis in their own personal way( one has a breakdown you may
find especially pitiful). There are obvious moral conflicts within themselves, notably Spa-
cey’s Sam Rogers who is intensely hesitant about coming “on board” for this willful de-
Let’s face it, this is a dark tale. A modern, natural film noir that gives cinematogra-
pher Frank DeMarco the advantage of subdued lighting to capture the very essence of the
story, with introspective city views on the part of our cast as they seriously consider the
consequences of their actions. We all know by the end that it’s a brutal ,corrupt financial
world out there. But we can still hope and pray that things can get better.