Sunday, December 4, 2011

High Altitude Hubris — Margin Call

Watch the faces. The whole range of human emotions is there, seething just below the conformism of corporate suit-and-tie glass office protocol. Rage, guilt, remorse, greed, raw power, and a deeply inhumane utilitarianism. This is the contribution of Margin Call: a sort of "12 Angry Men" look at how a room full of very powerful people interact and thereby influence the rest of the world.


OVERALL: Recommended

This is one of Kevin Spacey's best. The rest of the cast is, well, marginal. Demi Moore in particular is not convincing, either miscast or misdirected or both. Jeremy Irons does well at the aloof, swoop-down-from-the-helicopter heights of arrogance, but otherwise his performance isn't all that memorable.

What I like most about the film is its metaphors. In one scene they stand on a balcony overlooking a precipitous drop. "It's a long way down," one shudders. The impending collapse of the financial system seems to hover with them on that ledge.
The film ends with the sound of a shovel, as Kevin Spacey digs a grave for  his dog. That scene anchors the film in the real world and provides some physical contrast to the high-altitude hubris of the skyscrapers. The film treads a good line here, showing us a personal side of this otherwise un-empathetic portrayal of Wall Street.

Be sure to watch the clip of Demi Moore and Simon Baker in the elevator, with a janitor in between them. The irony here is delicious: it may be the best scene in the film:

Solid plot, great storytelling, and moves along well and gets to the point of the financial crisis: the selling of literally nothing, and the digging of a large grave we are still climbing out of.

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