Margin Call


Feeling inexplicably tired on this gloomy and rainy afternoon, I decided to pull out this 2011 DVD, hoping to be entertained by something “thrillingly intense” and at the same time learn something about the financial industry. What made me pick this out of the thousands on the library shelves on my last trip is the cast, including Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore and Stanley Tucci.

The movie opens with Eric Dale (Tucci), head of the Risk Management department of a Wall Street Investment Bank being retrenched after 19 years on the job. He left a thumb drive to a much younger colleague Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) saying, “Be careful”.

Sullivan has a PhD in engineering, and is actually a rocket scientist, but joined the firm two-and-a-half years ago because to him, it’s all about crunching numbers anyway, and hopes that he’ll earn more.

Other than understanding that Dale was retrenched partly because of a colleague named Sarah Robertson (Moore) who is seeking to take over the job as head of the department, and that Sam Rogers (Spacey) is a senior member with 34 years’ experience with the firm and Jeremy Irons as the CEO, I still do not know how information contained in the thumb drive could potentially cause the firm’s downfall and gave rise to so much decisions and complications to the lives of all involved.

I only understood two lines, both uttered by John Tuld the CEO: Money is just pieces of paper with pictures in it that  people can use to buy food so that they don’t kill each other, and There will always be winners and losers in this world.

I was not even able to appreciate the mostly original music composed and performed by Nathan Larson, or why Chopin’s Prelude Op 28 No 15 was used in one scene. Perhaps I’m really lacking in knowledge about the workings of the financial industry or I was simply too tired, both physically and mentally, to follow the plot.


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