Margin Call

Here we have a timely R-rated thriller that takes place in an investment bank (which shall remain nameless) on Day One of our latest financial disaster. We start with a downsizing: an employee is walked to a glass-enclosed office and heartlessly "let go," in full view of his coworkers. As Security escorts him to the elevator with his pathetic banker's box of personal items, he hands a zip drive to a young colleague with the admonition: "I was working on this and you need to finish it. Be careful."

By the time the young fellow completes the equations and realizes the magnitude of the situation, we are off and running. Of course with 20/20 hindsight, we know exactly how big and how brutal it was, what we only suspected was the extent of protection enjoyed by a self-serving top echelon of officers. Their "take-home pay" is mind-boggling.

Investment banking is still mostly a guy thing: look at the cast:
  • Kevin Spacey ("Horrible Bosses") is a long-term employee, a company man who weeps first for his dying dog and then for his beleaguered company.
  • Paul Bettany ("The Young Victoria") is a mid-level manager, a survivor who knows when to escalate a problem.
  • Zachary Quinto ("Star Trek") is the former engineer turned risk analyst who is handed that zip drive by his exiting boss.
  • Stanley Tucci ("Captain America") is the first man out the door. I loved his story about the impact of a bridge he built across a river in the mid-West before he came to New York.
  • Simon Baker ("The Mentalist") is a shrewd operator who shaves before a 3:00 AM Executive Board meeting.
  • Jeremy Irons ("Appaloosa") is the CEO who sees this as just another bump in the road.
  • Penn Badgley ("Easy A") is a recently hired employee who sobs in a mens' room stall.
  • Demi Moore ("Another Happy Day") tried to warn the officers a year earlier and is now told to keep her mouth shut.
It was a subdued screening audience that exited the theater. We have all felt the impact of that period of insanity and greed, so it's time to put faces on the villains. No gunshots, no car chases, no blowie uppie stuff, just self-serving people oblivious to their impact on the economy, and too arrogant to clean up their own toxic mess of derivatives. The R-rating is due to the profanity-laced language used by these fine folks.

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Here is a link to a preview:
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