Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Aasif Mandvi, Ashley Williams, Susan Blackwell
Written by: J.C. Chandor
Directed by: J.C. Chandor
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 105
Date: 01/25/2011

Margin Call (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sell and Bye

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

J.C. Chandor has made his feature writing and directing debut here, and it's a very strong effort, suggesting a huge talent on the rise.

In 2008, a Wall Street firm carries out a round of layoffs. One of the men to lose his job is Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci); he has discovered that the risky portfolios the company has been dealing with have stretched things too thin and that a huge crash is imminent. He leaves his findings with a young broker, Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), and by the middle of the night, all of the company's head honchos are sitting in tense meetings, trying to figure out what to do: protect the public interest, or save their own jobs.

Margin Call is sometimes like a theatrical play, taking place on limited sets, over a limited timeframe, with plenty of well-written, well-delivered monologues and dialogue. But the plus side of this is that the movie gets some amazingly good performances from a wide range of actors, including Demi Moore, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, and especially Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey (the latter has by far the richest role).

Moreover, Chandor throws in some remarkable little touches here and there that no stage play could get at, such as a young broker ditching his bottle of alcohol just before entering a conference room, or a cleaning lady over hearing some vague but tense details of the night's drama. This is a quiet, thoughtful little movie, but highly impressive and hauntingly memorable.

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