Essay on Margin Call Movie Review



Essay on Margin Call Movie Review

The economic collapse in 2008 is one of the major events in the United States and rightfully so, filmmakers through the years have depicted discordant versions of the circumstances that brought about the financial crisis. Chandor’s Margin Call is one such movie that buries the audience in the world of financial corruption and intrigue without detailing the difficult explanations of the machinations of this financial world (Goldberg, 2011, N. p). Since the financial crisis in 2008, there have been reports of hurt feelings among brokers and bankers who have for the most part been the focus of Occupy Wall Street protests and public ire (Scott, 2011, N. p). To a large extent it is true that these individuals have been caricatured and demonized with the often reviled one percent consisting of mere human beings as the remaining ninety-nine percent, but with more money and burden to answer for the outcome of their financial decisions and ventures as Scott (2011) reports.Essay on Margin Call Movie Review

Margin Call goes a long way to humanize the beneficiaries and authors of the 2008 financial crisis in the United States. Nonetheless, the movie is shrewd in its techniques and insights, relentless in its honesty and does not soothe the wounded pride of the actual past, current and aspiring ruling class. It is a story of vanity, avarice, expediency and myopia (Scott, 2011, N. p). Margin Call begins by depicting the laying off of eighty percent of the workforce in an unnamed investment firm. One of the victims is Eric (Stanley Tucci), the former Head of Risk Management at the firm who like most of his workmates was unable to realize that the real estate market in the United States at that time was built on a house of cards (Ebert, 20111, N. p). As Eric is escorted out of the company, he hands Peter (Zachary Quinto), the Senior Risk Analyst at the firm a USB drive that contains disturbing information. While the workers who survived the massive lay-off are out celebrating, Peter works on the figures in the USB drive handed to him by Eric and finds out that the firm and the real estate market as a whole are vividly trembling on the brink. Upon his discovery, Peter contacts his supervisor Will (Paul Bettany), the Head of Trading at the firm who after taking one look at the numbers, call his boss Sam (Kevin Spacey), the Investment Floor Head at the firm. What follows is a chain of reaction leading up to the top most leadership of the firm when John Tuld (Jeremy Irons), the CEO and Chairman of the Board at the firm is forced to come in late at night to assess the situation and provide further direction on what decision the firm company will take (Ebert, 20111, N. p).

It is imperative to note that there are neither operatic speeches celebrating or condemning avarice nor clear villains in Margin Call. Instead, there are a bunch of men in various roles and one woman Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore), the Chief Risk Management Officer at the firm dressed in well-tailored apparel and a state of subtle panic with characters concerned only by the welfare of the cooperation and trying to salvage themselves from a global catastrophe of their own making with no larger sense of the public good (Scott, 2011, N. p). The film rarely leaves the Manhattan offices where the fictional investment bank operates and consists mostly of hurried meetings, phone calls and analysis in a frenzied 24-hour period. However, the thrill comes about in the moral and human depiction of their actions and reactions to the crisis. As Scott (2011) asserts, in a world that is patently evil, no individual is innocent either. Peter is the closest Margin Call comes to depicting a hero. The audience sees what happens to him as an exemplar of how the systems lures, corrupts and exploits its most honest and decent members. After analyzing the information on the USB drive given to him by Eric, Peter realizes that volatility in the market is threatening the stability of the mortgage-based securities that have helped his firm generate most of its profits and the resulting losses are a harbinger of an apocalypse that is likely to swallow the firm and result in the disappearance of trillions of dollars.Essay on Margin Call Movie Review

Since the 2008 financial crisis has already occurred and discordant explanations given by analysts, Chandor does not reiterate these explanations; rather, he explores the ethical choices and psychological pressures at work from the perspective of those who caught an early glimpse of the looming crisis and pushed everyone else into it to benefit at the expense of the victims. Peter alerts his co-workers Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley), the Junior Risk Analyst at the firm before the information is shared with other co-workers including Jared Cohen (Simon Baker), the Investment Division Head and Ramesh Shah (Aasif Mandvi), the Legal Counsel. There is a tense showdown between the workmates with Sarah Robertson who seems to have ignored early warnings about the outcome of the scheme and proceeded with promoting the scheme getting involved in most of the backlash. Essay on Margin Call Movie Review

The irony evinced in this film is that higher the rank of an individual in a firm, the less he or she is likely to know and discern what the firm is doing (Scott, 2011, N. p). In Margin Call the line “I don’t get any of this stuff” is repeated by Sam, Cohen and the Tuld. This absurdity born out of sheer pride is further exemplified by the fact that the person who made the discovery, that is, Eric has just been laid off in the downsizing initiative by the firm. Moreover, since his cellphone had been disconnected, his worried colleagues cannot find him when they are most in need of his advice. Perhaps, the most believable aspect of the movie is the calmness of the damage control that transpires after the discovery. Faced with this predicament, a scapegoat must be found and the firm must work out a survival plan (Scott, 2011, N. p). The margin call is left to John who has no choice but to order the firm to begin dumping worthless holdings before people can know that they are worthless, thus, betraying their customers. Such actions led people to believe that certain firms formulated hedge funds intended to fail so as to make money by betting against them (Ebert, 20111, N. p) prior to the 2008 financial crisis. However, in the movie, the characters acknowledge the situation they are in, the consequences and accept the decision made by the CEO in the name of a greater good. Margin Call allows the audience to sympathize with the characters and acknowledge the reality of their predicament without letting them off the hook or turning a blind eye to what they did.

In the speech delivered by Will in movie, he asserts that the only reason people get to continue living like kings is because Wall Street has its fingers on the scales in the favor of the people and should it get its fingers off the scale then the world would get fair quickly the people would not want that. Essentially people want what Wall Street gives them, but want to act innocent and pretend they don’t know where it came from at the same time. The firm leverages this “hypocrisy” in making its decision to dump the worthless holdings to unsuspecting customers; a decision that is emulated by other firms with the knowledge of the imminent financial crisis. However, I do not buy this story. If anything the only people with lavish lifestyles that Wall Street is claiming to help is Wall Street itself. In other words, Wall Street is not stealing from the 99% percent to give the proceeds to the 1%; instead, it is stealing from the 1% and keeping the proceeds while also picking the pockets of the 99%. Therefore, in as much as the firm in the movie Margin Call and other firms may claim that their decisions was based on the good intention of helping normal people maintain their lavish lifestyles and not denying them fringe benefits, I do not believe this is true. When the dust settled, these people who were living beyond their means due to Wall Streets “guardianship” did not get to maintain their lavish lifestyles. Instead, they were faced with eviction notices and foreclosures and Wall Street was not there to help them.

Another aspect of the movie Margin Call that I do not agree with is the ignorance of the big bosses in various firms of operations in their companies and the nitty-gritty of the finances. This is just an attempt at providing meager exegesis for the audience (Salmon, 2011, N. p). Where the movie portrays a Demi Moore who is ironically defenestrated, I see a Chief Risk Management Officer who signed off on risky trades that were bound to cause major detriment to people only to end up getting increased earnings and bonuses. The alternative was for the investment banks to fail in the housing bubble, but they chose to transfer the damage to unsuspecting consumers. By colluding, most Wall Street firms deliberately influence the performance of their dealings and holdings through manipulation of their valuation and the valuation of other securities by setting discordant rates so as to lure unsuspecting consumers to hedge off their losses or damages. In other words, they see a bad thing coming and instead of finding ways to mitigate the impending damages, they find ways of making consumers bear the full weight of the damages by formulating schemes aimed at making normal people and companies invest their savings and retirement money in their worthless holdings.Essay on Margin Call Movie Review

In conclusion, while the ignorance pleaded by most of the bosses in the movie regarding the scheme is something that is likely not to be true in the real world, the rationalization of their actions is a true depiction of what goes on in the real world. Just like the firm in the film Margin Call, Wall Street firms when faced with predicament will always justify their decision to unload illiquid positions to any individual, company or bank that evinces the lightest sign of weakness or prospective insolvency. The speech delivered by Will in the film portrays how Wall Street firms will always have their own interests in mind and keen to protect corporate and stakeholders’ welfare at the expense of their customers in the face of a crisis while leveraging their notion of helping people maintain their lifestyles so as to justify their actions.















Works Cited

Chandor, J.C. Margin Call. Before The Door Pictures, 2011.

Ebert, Roger. “Margin Call Movie Review & Film Summary (2011) | Roger Ebert”. Rogerebert.Com, 2011, Accessed 19 Mar 2018.

Goldberg, Matt. “MARGIN CALL Review”. Collider, 2011, Accessed 19 Mar 2018.

Salmon, Felix. “The Lessons Of “Margin Call””. Reuters, 2011, Accessed 19 Mar 2018.

Scott, A. “‘Margin Call,’ With Zachary Quinto – Review”. Nytimes.Com, 2011, Accessed 19 Mar 2018.