Film Review – Margin Call

Greed, it turns out, isn’t quite so good after all. 

With the world on the brink of economic collapse, a rather timely film has been made to show us how this sort of thing happens. Well, sort of.

We get something of an after-the-fact account of a bank that has just discovered it has gambled too much, at too high a risk, and is due to implode. They decide, therefore, to sell off their debt-ridden assets as though they have value, to minimise the damage; the catch being that it will actually destroy the entire economy, rather than just the company. To paraphrase Jeremy Irons’s character, “It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. We can’t help ourselves.”

So this isn’t so much an education on the banking crisis, what we actually have here instead is a pretty decent edge-of-the-seat thriller. The star-studded cast are all excellent, although Jeremy Irons and Paul Bettany do appear to suffer from the increasingly-familiar Wandering Accent Syndrome. The script is clear enough to follow, even if the specifics of complex economics are over your head (as they are mine).

Since the film ends before any kind of tax-payer bail-out would have occurred, the full implications of their actions are only hinted at. Even though we know these people are the enemy of civilization, the film does a pretty decent job of humanising them, and you may even find yourselves rooting for them, come the opening of trading. Fingers are pointed, bucks are passed, jobs are lost, promotions are made, and by the end it’s difficult to know who’s to blame anymore. The most accurate answer, of course, is all of them.

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