Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: Margin Call

Dozens of films purport to be based on or retell real events and many of them purport to be about events that no one outside those directly involved actually witnessed and are thus, probably, complete bullshit. But that doesn't matter as much as people seem to think. Was The King's Speech or The Social Network accurate to the events they were based on? Shit no, but as long as the movie is well made and entertaining, it doesn't really matter. And while Margin Call is far from the best movie of the year, it is actually pretty good.

The plot is concerned with a firm who, after a round of layoffs, realizes that their real estate holdings are worse than worthless and the firm will be bankrupt within days if they don't unload them. So, knowing full well it'll damage the people they sell them to and probably damage the economy, they prepare to sell all their real estate holdings.

If that sounds kind of slow paced, it is. 99 percent of the film is dialogue based with most of it being fairly dense (which they fix by bringing out the 'ignorant' CEO to explain everything to). It manages to take most of it's cues from political thrillers and other good hacker movies, using judicious editing and solid direction to keep it all interesting.

The writing is solid, nothing on The Descendents but still a worthy and interesting script. The dialogue is believeable and manages to make the story engaging and interesting. One of the more interesting aspects is the entire film is almost completely musicless. There are a couple exceptions, mostly from in-story music, but for the most part it's devoid of music. This lends the film a certain disconcerting air of realism. The editing takes it's cues from The Social Network in style and presentation and there are certainly worse things to take cues from.

The story is engaging and interesting with mostly unique and well rounded characters and an almost disconcertingly . There are a couple exceptions (a few of the characters feel interchangeable), and at least one characters arc sorta...fizzles out towards the end. The acting is great, especially from Paul Bettany and (surprisingly) Zachary Quinto. Has he been good in anything else? And it's so nice to see Kevin Spacey putting his considerable talents towards playing what amounts to a hero as opposed to a villainous role (don't deny it, even when he's the main character, if he's giving a good performance, he's evil. Look at Casino Jack). And it must be said, the final scene is disconcertingly poignant.

It's not perfect and if I was being brutally honest it's riddled with flaws, some of which are annoying but none of which are deal breakers. The pacing is rather off for one. It starts out with an extremely abbreviated first act and spends the vast majority of it's running time in the second act, before stumbling into an inhumanly short third act and tiny denoucement. A few interesting things and characters are shunted off to the side in favor of the main characters arcs. One character's arc and personality flit about a bit schitzophrenically and at the final speech from the closest thing the film has to a villain might as well have 'MESSAGE' under it in blazing red letters.

Look, Breaking Dawn has held the first place spot in box office for 3 weeks running, so I'm libel to root for anything (ANYthing) else to make money. But if you want my two cents, Margin Call is a flawed, but well meaning and well made first effort from a new director. So if it's playing near you and you have the jones to see something like The Social Network again, give this one a look. See you next time.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he's still a little suspicious of Zachary Quinto getting cast as the gay guy in American Horror Story RIGHT after he came out.

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