Margin Call

First Hit: This smart educational film opens the door to understanding the mortgage crisis of the late 2000’s.

What this film does is give the audience a human flavor as to why the mortgage crisis happened.

Human not in the context of the mortgage holders, but the guys in a Wall Street house who created bundling of the subprime mortgage packages and sold them.

In this Wall Street firm, recent losses have created firings. One of the fired, Eric Dale (played by Stanley Tucci), has been working on some numbers which concern him. When he leaves he gives a thumb drive to a young new Analyst, Peter Sullivan (played by Zachary Quinto).

Sullivan works for Will Emerson (played by Paul Bettany), who works for Sam Rogers (played by Kevin Spacey). Will is smart and has about 10 years with the firm and when Sullivan finishes the analysis that Dale started, he immediately sees that the company is overexposed and is exposed for more than their capital worth.

Like the mortgages of many, they are underwater. This brings in the heavy weights. Rogers calls Jared Cohen (played by Simon Baker) who calls the CEO John Tuld (played by Jeremy Irons). A 2:00 AM meeting between all these players and lawyers, the meeting starts with Sullivan explaining what he discovered.

The Head of Risk Sarah Robertson (played by Demi Moore) indicates that they tried to tell Tuld this could happen but Tuld indicates that this is now water under the bridge. What can they do to save the company now? Tuld decides to sell all of their positions at a loss, even though they know that doing this will destroy the market for mortgages, their relationships with all other brokerage companies they work with, and maybe destroy the company.

However, by leading the charge to sell this bad debt they will lose less than the others. To do this they know what they are doing and that is where the morality of their decision comes into question.

Tucci is great as one of the guys who complies with the end decision, all for money. Spacey is wonderful as the head of sales who motivates the crew for the last selling spree, he does it for the money as well. Quinto is sublime as the smart analyst. Irons is absolutely dead on as a ruthless player. Baker is very good as the guy who didn’t listen enough and is mostly responsible for the company’s plight. Moore is OK as the woman who pushed for a change but was unconvincing enough. Bettany is very good as the guy who thinks he knows it all but really relies on the smarts of others. J.C. Chandor wrote and directed this film which was intelligent, educational, well scripted, and provided excitement and interest.

Overall: This was a wonderful film to see and provided enough of a layman’s language explanation to shine light on the financial mess we’re now in.