Thursday, 4 April 2013

Margin Call, dir/wr. J.C. Chandor, st. Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci

Margin Call may have been filmed on a (comparatively) modest budget, but the themes the film deals with are as far-reaching and cosmos-calling as any grand sci-fi opus. Set over a period of just 36 hours in an unnamed (*cough* Goldman Sachs *cough*) trading firm, Chandor's film, as chilly as it is elegant, charts the discovery and initial tremors of the financial crisis of 2008 that, as time has borne out, was to unrelentingly ripple across the face of our planet. It's effectively a dissection of big business damage limitation, as the CEO and board's primary instinct is to minimise liability and dump their toxic products asap and the little people be damned. There's no time here to listen to any Glengarry-style worker woes (the film begins with a floor-wide layoff). Instead, the workers are presumed to be at the top of their game (or certainly at base camp with all the kit and a fair wind) and justly reaping rewards. In the same way that Frank Pierson's HBO marvel Conspiracy managed even within a privileged syndicate of SS officers, politicians and lawyers to demarcate heroes and villains, Margin Call similarly gives us a clearly identifiable root-forable hero in the shape of Spacey's Sam Rogers, the only one who seems remotely concerned about anything other than his own skin. The film doesn't give much of a sense of life outside the office walls - the general public reduced to the flickering city lights and car headlamps that form a luminescent backdrop to corner office über-views; that's us, and we have no place in this world. Electrifying, bitterly fascinating and utterly imperative viewing.