Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Video review: "Margin Call"

One of the best movies of 2011 hardly anyone's seen, "Margin Call" is a fictionalized take on the collapse of a Lehman Brothers-type company at the precipice of the Great Recession. It's an insider's look at greed, hubris, and the willingness of an elite few to flush the entire economy down the drain, so long as they are the ones who get to decide when.

First-time writer/director J.C. Chandor makes an audacious debut with this taut potboiler, and he's got a killer cast to help him: Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Simon Baker and Jeremy Irons.

The entire story takes place during one night. After being laid off from his firm, an older worker tips off a young stock trader to evidence that the entire company is on the verge of plunging into a sea of red ink. The smart hotshot calls in his boss, who calls in his boss, and so on into the night.

It's a parade of human flaws and cavalier attitudes, as each person recognizes the imminent threat, and calculates how much personal exposure they have to the calamity.

Irons tops things off as the company CEO, who sees everything in the cold calculation of dollars and cents, and the human factor never enters the equation. Spacey, who has a knack for playing loathsome characters, is the floor boss who starts out as the film's villain and somehow ends up as its moral conscience.
Don't miss this tightly-told indie.

Video extras are good, though not blue-chip quality. Chandor and producer Neal Dodson team up for a feature-length commentary track. They also have a commentary available to accompany several deleted scenes.

The goodies are rounded out by a making-of featurette, photo gallery and behind-the-scenes snippets with cast and crew.

Movie: 3.5 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars

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