Margin Call (film)

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Margin Call
Margin Call.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by J.C. Chandor
Produced by Joe Jenckes
Robert Ogden Barnum
Corey Moosa
Michael Benaroya
Neal Dodson
Zachary Quinto
Written by J.C. Chandor
Starring Kevin Spacey
Paul Bettany
Jeremy Irons
Zachary Quinto
Penn Badgley
Simon Baker
Mary McDonnell
Demi Moore
Stanley Tucci
Music by Nathan Larson
Cinematography Frank DeMarco
Editing by Pete Beaudreau
Studio Before the Door Pictures
Washington Square Films
Untitled Entertainment
Sakonnet Capital Partners
Distributed by Lionsgate
Roadside Attractions
Benaroya Pictures
Release dates
  • October 21, 2011 (2011-10-21)
Running time 109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3.5 million[1]
Box office $19,504,039[1]

Margin Call is a 2011 American independent drama film written and directed by J.C. Chandor. The film takes place over a 36-hour period at a large Wall Street investment bank and highlights the initial stages of the financial crisis of 2007–08.[2][3] In focus are the actions taken by a group of employees during the subsequent financial collapse.[4] The ensemble cast features Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci.

The film was a co-production between the motion picture studios of Before the Door Pictures, Benaroya Pictures, Washington Square Films, Margin Call Productions, Sakonnet Capital Partners, and Untitled Entertainment. Theatrically, it was commercially distributed by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. Margin Call explores capitalism, greed and investment fraud.[5] Following its wide release in theaters, the film garnered award nominations for its production merits from the Detroit Film Critics Society, along with several separate nominations for its screenplay and direction from recognized award organizations, namely the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film score was orchestrated by musician Nathan Larson.

The film made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 25, 2011 and opened in theaters nationwide in the United States on October 21, 2011 grossing $5,354,039 in domestic ticket receipts. It was screened at 199 theaters during its widest release in cinemas. It earned an additional $14,150,000 in business through international release to top out at a combined $19,504,039 in gross revenue. Preceding its initial screening to the public, the film was generally met with positive critical reviews. The DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film were released in the United States on December 20, 2011.

Plot[edit]

Junior risk analyst Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley), his more senior colleague Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), and trading desk head Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) watch as a contracted temporary human resources team, hired by their firm, conducts an unannounced mass layoff right on their trading floor, at the start of an otherwise normal business day. One of the fired employees is Peter and Seth's boss, Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), head of risk management on the floor. Dale attempts to tell his now former employer that the firm should look into what he has been working on, but the contracted human resources staff have no interest other than his quickly leaving the building. While Dale is being escorted out, he gives Peter a USB memory stick with a project he had been working on, telling him to "be careful" just as he boards the elevator.

That night, Sullivan finishes Dale's project and discovers that current volatility in the firm's portfolio of mortgage backed securities will soon exceed the historical volatility levels of the positions. Because of excessive leverage, if the firm's assets decrease by 25% in value, the firm will suffer a loss greater than its market capitalization. He also discovers that, given the normal length of time that the firm holds such securities, this loss must occur. Sullivan alerts Emerson, who calls floor head Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey).

The employees remain at the firm for a series of meetings with progressively more senior executives, including division head Jared Cohen (Simon Baker), chief risk management officer Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore), and finally CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons). Jared's plan is for the firm to quickly sell all of the toxic assets before the market learns of their worthlessness, thereby limiting the firm's exposure, a course favored by Tuld over Rogers's strong objection. Rogers warns Cohen and Tuld that dumping the firm's toxic assets will spread the risk throughout the financial sector and will destroy the firm's relationships with its counterparties. He also warns Cohen that their customers will quickly learn of the firm's plans, once they realize that the firm is only selling the toxic securities.

They finally locate Dale, who had been missing after his company phone was turned off and is eventually persuaded to come in with the promise of a generous fee and the threat of having his severance package challenged if he didn't. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Robertson, Cohen, and Tuld were aware of the risks in the weeks leading up to the crisis. Tuld plans to offer Robertson's resignation to the board and employees as a scapegoat.

Before the markets open, Rogers tells his traders they will receive seven-figure bonuses if they achieve a 93% reduction in certain MBS asset classes in a "fire sale". He admits that the traders are effectively ending their careers by destroying their relationships with their clients. Meanwhile, Robertson and Dale sit in an office, being paid handsomely to do nothing for the day; Robertson vigorously defends herself that she warned of the risks although perhaps not loudly enough. Emerson keeps on closing the positions, but his counterparties become increasingly agitated and suspicious as the day wears on. After trading hours end, Rogers watches the same human resources team begin another round of layoffs on his floor. He confronts Tuld in the executive dining area and asks to resign, but Tuld dismisses his protests, claiming that the current crisis is really no different from various crashes and bear markets of the past, and that sharp gains and losses are simply part of the economic cycle. He persuades Rogers to stay at the firm for another two years, promising that there will be a lot of money to be made from the coming crisis. Rogers notices Sullivan meeting with Cohen; Tuld informs Rogers he will promote Sullivan.

In the final scene, Rogers is shown in his ex-wife's front lawn late at night, burying his dog that has died of cancer—thinking that since the dog had spent most of its life there that it should be buried there. His ex-wife comes out and reminds him that he doesn't live there anymore. She reassures him that their son, who is implied to also work on Wall Street, took a hit from the day's trading but will be okay. As the credits roll, Rogers continues to dig.

Cast[edit]

Actor Kevin Spacey portrayed Sam Rogers.

Production[edit]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography began on June 21, 2010, in New York City.[2] More than 80 percent of the action was shot on the 42nd floor of One Penn Plaza, which had recently been vacated by a trading firm.[6][7] The film premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film also played In Competition at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for the Golden Bear.[8][9] The film was produced by Zachary Quinto's production company, Before The Door Pictures, by Quinto and his two producing partners and Carnegie Mellon University classmates, Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa.[10]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

The film received positive reviews from critics, garnering an 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus: "Smart, tightly wound, and solidly acted, Margin Call turns the convoluted financial meltdown of '08 into gripping, thought-provoking drama."[11] The New Yorker said it was "easily the best Wall Street movie ever made".[12]

Although the film does not depict any real Wall Street firm, the plot has similarities to some events during the 2008 financial crisis: Goldman Sachs similarly moved early to hedge and reduce its position in mortgage-backed securities, at the urging of two employees;[13] and the firms Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns found themselves similarly and catastrophically over-leveraged in mortgage-backed securities. They scrambled, ultimately unsuccessfully, to manage the financial and public panic that ensued when their problems became apparent and the global financial markets plunged as a result.

Accolades[edit]

Awards Group Category Recipient Result
84th Academy Awards[14] Best Original Screenplay J.C. Chandor Nominated
Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA)[15] Best Film – International Nominated
Best Direction – International J.C. Chandor Nominated
Best Screenplay – International J.C. Chandor Won
Casting Society of America[16] Outstanding Achievement in Casting for a Studio or Independent Drama Feature Bernard Telsey, Tiffany Little Canfield Nominated
Detroit Film Critics Society[17] Best Ensemble Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards Best First Feature Won
Best First Screenplay Nominated
Robert Altman Award Won
National Board of Review Awards[18] Spotlight Award for Best Directorial Debut J.C. Chandor Won
Top 10 Independent Films
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards[19] Best Original Screenplay J.C. Chandor Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[20] Best First Film J.C. Chandor Won

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ a b "Margin Call". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-08-10. 
  2. ^ a b Dash, Eric (June 22, 2010). "Citi Goes Hollywood for Spacey and Crew". The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2010. 
  3. ^ Fleming, Mike (September 13, 2010). "Margin Call Director J.C. Chandor Snags Big Warner Bros Writing Gig From DiCaprio". Deadline New York. Retrieved October 6, 2010. 
  4. ^ Kit, Borys (June 15, 2010). "Simon Baker, Paul Bettany eye indie drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 27, 2010. 
  5. ^ Kyle Bryan (Director). (2011). Margin Call [Motion picture]. United States: Lionsgate.
  6. ^ Wallace. Benjamin, "What’s Up, Spock?: He might be a famous Vulcan, but Zachary Quinto has no problem being fully human", New York Magazine, October 16, 2011
  7. ^ Jon Chesto, "Director of “Margin Call” didn’t need a big budget to depict Wall Street’s mortgage meltdown",WickedLocal.com
  8. ^ "The Competition of the 61st Berlinale". Berlinale. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Spacey, Moore and 3D in focus at Berlin film fest". Yahoo News. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Before The Door Pictures, official website". Google. 
  11. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". 
  12. ^ "All That Glitters". The New Yorker. 
  13. ^ Goldman’s uneasy subprime short. FT Alphaville.
  14. ^ "84th Academy Awards Nominees". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). January 24, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2012. 
  15. ^ "AACTA Awards winners and nominees". Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA). 31 January 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  16. ^ "Casting Society of America Announces Artios Awards Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. August 20, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2012. 
  17. ^ http://detroitfilmcritics.com/Home_Page.html
  18. ^ Corliss, Richard (December 1, 2011). "Year-End Awards: National Board of Review Says 'We Go with Hugo'". TIME. Retrieved December 12, 2011. 
  19. ^ Pond, Steve (December 11, 2011). "San Francisco film critics pick "Tree of Life"". The Wrap. Reuters. Retrieved December 12, 2011. 
  20. ^ ""The Artist" Leads New York Film Critics' Circle Awards". November 29, 2011. Retrieved December 28, 2011. 

External links[edit]