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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Margin Call

J.C. Chandor's Margin Call is a spare, compelling look at the human beings behind the scenes of the financial collapse of 2008. If the script is sometimes too reliant on clunky, obvious metaphors, the experience of watching it is redeemed by the film's many great performances. Chief among these performances are two by old-pro Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons. Their back-and-forth reaches Shakespearean heights as they argue over what it means to do the right thing.

Less compelling is the performance of Zachary Quinto, who is asked to play the boy-genius analyst who realizes what no one else does, that the brokerage firm he works for is about to go under. Quinto's "look at me, I'm acting" face is borderline ridiculous.

As the news about the firm's precarious situation spreads through night, the people in charge are left with a moral dilemma. The only way to save themselves is to sell off their leverage immediately, even though they now know it will soon be worthless. Though knowledge of recent history makes the outcome unsurprising, it is fascinating to watch their rationalizations and inability to resist caving in to self-preservation.

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