Though IMDB may call this a thriller, and the trailer may make it look like some sort of Jason Bourne-style flick except with stocks instead of guns, it’s not. It’s slow, talky, and, for those not well-versed in economics, a tad hard to follow. And somehow, despite it all, it manages to be inexplicably entertaining.
The Bourne Economy? Anyone?
It’s really odd, because all the things that have brought down lesser movies seem to have no effect on this one. First of all, you’ve got a slow plot. After the first hour, it’s pretty clear how everything is going to turn out. The latter half of the movie consists primarily of people in business suits sittign around in rooms with lots of glass windows and making dramatic speeches about capitalism, the ‘common folk’ and human nature.
Truly the stuff of thrillers.
I have to wonder if these economists double-majored in English lit, because they sure do like to go out of their way to provide us with dramatic speeches. Dude! Your company’s failing, and you’re going to take the time to give us a lecture on how humans are greedy people who swindle each other and that’s just the way the world works? Really? It’s very thoughtful of you, and I very much appreciate it, but if I were you I might want to focus on the impending economic crisis.
Well, Jeremy Irons, that was certainly all deep and stuff, now get back to work.
Though these men are ostensibly businessmen, it seems to me like their job consists of making speeches, and making sure that everything they do is a potent symbol . Dear lord is there a lot of symbolism in this movie. At one point, Paul Bettany gazes meaningfully off the edge of a roof and remarks that it’s a “long way down.” That’s subtle. Real subtle. There’s some stuff, you don’t even know what it symbolizes, but you know it symbolizes something. Like that one scene of the guy burying his dog near the end of the movie (that ain’t a spoiler, is it?) Maybe the dog is like, the economy? Or maybe it’s a manifestation of his lost humanity(my favorite interpretation)? Something profound like that.
So what made this movie not boring? It’s kind of hard to say. One thing was the acting. There were a lot of characters in this movie, meaning there were a lot of actors, and they did their job to make even the incomprehensible seem pretty damned portentious. I may be stupid, but I have no clear idea of what liquidizing assets means (I believe in the context of this film it refers to selling all the firm’s CDOs. What a CDO is, I have only the vaguest idea), but you know when Kevin Spacey says “liquidize our assets?” with that look on his face and that adds “you can’t be serious?” afterwards, it’ gotta be bad. Really bad.
Honestly, this movie is less about the plot (sleazy company sells valueless stuff and rips everyone off to prevent itself from going under) than about how the characters react to the plot, and that is the interesting part of Margin Call. Though the speeches and the symbols and the messages here are pretty obvious, that’s not always a bad thing. It’s good that the movie does have something to say. It’s also good that at doesn’t try to give us a clear-cut heroes and villains tale. While it would be easier to simplify the financial crisis this way, the same way Avatar simplified issues ranging from deforestation to westward expansion (I can never resist a good Avatar jibe) it wouldn’t be as believable, or ultimately, as interesting. Instead, all the characters are painted with varying shades of gray. Some are better, some are worse, but mostly they’re all just different. The interactions between these characters never feel 100% believable (they’re speaking in dramatic symbolic movie talk, to be sure), but they are fun to watch, if for no other reason than the one-liners.
Margin Call manages to turn a subject that, admittedly, does not exactly lend itself to the silver screen, and make an engaging, thought-provoking, and satisfying film out of it. This is one asset I wouldn’t want to…um…liquidize? Anyways, it’s worth a watch.