Margin Call (2011)

With a stellar cast, a heavyweight, urgent theme and a willingness to try to explain the complex in simple terms, Margin Call could have been a major film; an awards contender of relevance and importance. It isn’t; it’s not terrible. It’s pretty good in places; it’s just a let down, and more importantly doesn’t so justice to the subject matter.

The financial crash is one of the defining world events of recent years; as such, it should attract the thoughtful film-maker. It affects everyone; it’s about the stuff in our pocket and bank accounts which affects pretty much everything about our everyday lives. However high finance, like cyber-crime, is hard to make cinematic. Most people understand it less than news reporters seem to think we do; it’s a tough sell about a vital subject.

Margin Call is perhaps the highest profile film to take on the subject. Set in the early days of the crash, it’s the story of 24-hours in the life of a crisis hit investment bank, replete with moral dilemmas and livelihoods on the line.  It has all the elements of a big film about big things. Sadly, it doesn’t work. Earnest as it is, exciting as it tries to be, it’s all just a little inward and a little mystifying. It doesn’t do enough to really explain the high stakes of what’s going on; I still felt like an outsider in a world I didn’t understand. For all its excesses and faults, The Wolf Of Wall Street  did far more to explain the mendacity and hedonism of high finance than Margin Call ever does. Neither are outstanding; but Scorsese’s film lingers longer and deeper in the memory for all that it’s about the surface and the sheen. Margin Call disappoints because it’s so close to being so much more.

I rated this film 3/5 om rottentomatoes.com and 6/10 on imdb.com

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