'Margin Call' is a timely Wall Street thriller
"Margin Call," an excellent Wall Street thriller directed by J.C. Chandor and starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons and Zachary Quinto, is a remarkably timely story about a firm whose assets turn out to be built on fog and mirrors. Taut, smart and well-acted, the film is playing at several Seattle-area theaters.
Seattle Times movie critic
'Margin Call,' with Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor. 109 minutes. Rated R for language. Several theaters, as well as video on demand in some markets.
A horror story told in dark conference rooms and starkly elegant corporate offices, "Margin Call" takes place during a long night's journey into day in 2008, when executives at a Wall Street investment firm learn that something is terribly, terribly wrong. It starts with a scene in which a manager named Eric (Stanley Tucci) is fired, in the soulless way of Anna Kendrick's character in "Up in the Air." (After getting the ax, he's handed a brochure optimistically titled "Looking Ahead.") Leaving the building, he hands a flash drive to a junior employee, Peter (Zachary Quinto). Take a look at this, Eric says, adding an ominous, "Be careful."
And so begins a taut, smart and remarkably timely thriller, as we watch person after person (well, man after man, with only one exception) learn that their company's empire is built on fog and mirrors. Writer/director J.C. Chandor has assembled a strong cast in well-cut business suits: Tucci, that master of the subtle eye-roll, is memorable in just a few scenes; the handsome Quinto demonstrates leading-man chops; and Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker and Demi Moore all acquit themselves nicely.
Chandor struggles a bit with making the complex financial subject matter clear; one too many characters says, "Explain it to me in plain English" too obviously for the sake of the audience (though, as running gags go, it's a funny one). And the sameness of the settings makes the movie seem a bit like a filmed play — one from David Mamet, for example, with a little less swearing. But as a snapshot of a moment in time, "Margin Call" is often mesmerizing. "The ground is shifting below our feet," notes one character; he didn't yet know how much.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com
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