The Film: Margin Call (2011).
The director: J.C. Chandor.
Plot synopsis: A perspective on the financial collapse in 2008 that is still reverberating today. An investment bank makes a number of jobs redundant, including one key risk assessment analyst who was close to identifying that there was a massive problem. One of his workers steps into his shoes and completes the formula that he was trying to work out, and realises that something huge is about to go wrong. The night is spent with the heads of the investment firm, CEOs and other analysts as they all attempt to work out a solution to save their own skins.
Why should I watch it? Granted, it will be massively dramatised and therefore historically (and apparently factually) inaccurate, but it did help someone who has little to no financial knowledge like me understand the roots of the crisis a bit better. Plus it’s got Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey, who are both fantastic in it.
Best moment: The humanisation of Sam Rogers (Spacey), a hard-nosed and ruthless businessman. Towards the end of the film you get to see that there is more to him than just money, and he has regrets. There is also this brutally honest and insightful monologue by Will Emerson (Paul Bettany):
Worst moment: When you realise that a lot of the problems that exist in our own lives today are because of bad decisions made by people you’ll never meet, hundreds of miles away.
So, how many Walrus points do you give it? 7,920/10,000. It’s not the most exciting or action-packed of films, but it is provocative and an interesting look into the financial climate. It’s a film where the plot is less important than the context, and it’s executed very well.
Fun fact of the day: In the first quarter of 1933, the banking system broke down: asset prices had collapsed, bank lending had largely ceased, a quarter of the American work force was unemployed, and real GDP per capita in 1933 was 29% below its 1929 value.
The Walrus has spoken.