You can now watch 2011 financial drama Margin Call on iPlayer – or if you don’t want to watch it, just imagine if The Big Short was made by a proper filmmaker instead of the guy responsible for Anchorman, Anchorman 2 and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
J.C. Chandor’s first feature is set over one night in a Wall Street investment bank, as the financial crash looms horribly into view. Like Chandor’s follow-up All Is Lost, this is another film about a storm – albeit a metaphorical one. Come to think of it, All Is Lost would actually be a fitting and more memorable name for this movie. Fortunately the directing, writing and acting leave a lasting impression, with performances strong across the board(room).
The talented ensemble includes Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto and Paul Bettany, who should just turn back into The Vision and save the world again. At one point Spacey says he’s worked at the bank for 34 years, which would mean he started when he was about 18. This seems unlikely, unless he started as a cleaner and worked his way up to Head of Trading… but I’m nitpicking. I’m a great fan of Chandor and this is an impressive debut, much smarter, more scathing and better directed than The Big Short.
Like Bankerman, the film is concerned with the bankers themselves and pays little attention to those who’ll suffer most. But this seems like a natural result of the film’s focused play-like structure, condensed into just one night like Glengarry Glen Ross – with a similarly brooding mood and sharp screenwriting. If Glengarry Glen Ross is Death of a Salesman for the ’80s, and Death of a Salesman is Death of a Salesman for the ’40s, then Margin Call is Death of a Salesman for the 2010s.
It’s also another tower block movie, like The Negotiator or High Rise – and once again Jeremy Irons is at the top of the tower where he belongs, like Saruman in a suit. And like Cosmopolis, the movie is imbued with a sense of everything coming to an end, as though this is the last night on Earth as we know it… not bad for a film about finance.