Greed (Margin Call movie review)

J. C. Chandler in the movie “Margin Call” describes coulisses of events that have change the world. He invites his audience to the reality that is driven by money and relative values system according to which everything is negotiable. The entire narration is focused on first 24 hours of the 2008 financial crisis and on one company whose leaders must choose between saving their own business (and playing dirty) and risking losing it when doing the right (objectively speaking) right thing. The facts-based story that stands behind “Margin Call” makes it a sure-fire hit, but – what’s important – the director doesn’t totally depends on the history and proves his ability of creating simple, but also intense, gripping, dramaturgically proficient movies.

Chandler tells two parallel stories that result from each other. First – more specific – one is concentrated on the Wall Street bank elite that face the vision of bankruptcy after coming into possession of worthless credit derivatives and try to quietly sell them to other investor when concealing information about their real value. Second – more universal and maybe even metaphysical – one focuses on the general mechanisms of money trading and the process of the capitalistic liquefaction of morality. Those two treads constantly intertwine each other, but the director doesn’t try to capture the essence of the capitalistic system’s perversions, but remains closer to the phenomena of greed. What’s worth highlighting, he doesn’t look for personal motivations to play dirty, but portraits the system that puts greed next to loyalty.

The director also resists the temptation of both – analysing sources and causes of the 2008 crisis and accusing real people of playing important roles in those unlucky events (he doesn’t even use the name of the bank in which the action takes place. Chandlers moves accents to put a burden on the specifics of the brokers’ job – their temptations, desires, and wishes.

The director creates a very stereotypical vision of the Wall Street reality, which is presented as a space that seems to be detached from ordinary people lives and inhabited by businessmen and businesswomen in expansive suits that make insane amounts of money and dream only of having more. They represent perfect embodiments of capitalism and its promises. What’s interesting, this generalization and tendentious shortcuts don’t make “Margin Call” weaker, but on the contrary – turn into a parable in a frame of grotesque. Chandler’s movie is not brilliant enough to call it a subversive caricature, but with no doubt the director manages to capture the tragicomic state of those who were blessed and cursed by free market at the same time. The director shows life that has turned into a frapping, addictive game. Its hierarchy is very obvious and very simple. Those who are in the firm the longest have no shame and are driven by cynical mind made of money. Those who have just begun their careers show some human reflexes, but it is very clear that if they want to survive, they will have to adjust to old stagers. In this black and white world there is no much place for credibility. Chandler creates fantasy on corporate reality and “Margin Call” as such is a good movie. It becomes worse if you want to find it something more than Hollywood portrait of greedy people.