Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Margin Call

J.C. Chandor, 2011 (8.2*)

Another spooky film about how flimsy and corrupt western capitalism is at the top levels, those megalithic banking corporations that control everyone’s money and who always start what they like to call “investor panic”, when it’s really just the pros themselves making all the panic moves to cover their own assets.

This story involves massive layoffs at the trading floor of a major unnamed banking corporation. As one departs, he tells an underling he was working on something big and to be careful; the the junior risk analyst checks it out, the ripples become immediate and far-reaching.

Stanley Tucci is the laid off analyst, who unfortunately doesn't have a large enough part here. Dr. Spock look-alike Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) is the junior analyst whose work starts the whole cookie crumbling. Simon Baker (British accent and hair and all) is miscast as a division head bereft of any ethics. Jeremy Irons is credible, though untaxed, as the CEO of the entire corporation, who is, of course, self-serving and short-sighted. Demi Moore is perfect in a small part that added little to the story other than a female actor. Kevin Spacey is seeming a little tired in his too familiar part, as a experience trading group manager, a long time corporate employee with a little conscience remaining, since he came from the old school.

This repeating mistake usually involves someone big basically admitting all the “paper” they’re holding is generally worthless, whether it’s corporate bonds, mortgages, credit swaps, derivatives, and other worthless stuff they seem to invent daily while the feds look the other way - so they decide they have to start dumping theirs, and anything else they're holding, before everyone else does, and salvage what they can in the ensuing debacle.

This is sadly the recurring story of western capitalism: people with too much concentrated money and therefore financial power start taking too much risk for the amount of actual money they have. When they either collapse or start liquidating everything, it has ripple effects throughout all financial markets and millions of people lost trillions in wealth in a few hours. For some reason, this sort of sociopathic insanity is not only endorsed but seems to be allowed to control of nearly every western economy – or more accurately, has gained control of every western economy.

This version of the inner workings of high finance will be boring to many, but I found it quite riveting and totally credible. It is rumored to be the story of Merrill Lynch, who basically became bankrupt and was turned over to Bank of America for resurrection. (We don't allow corporate failures, just millions of individual ones by average citizens).

This story has happened far too often in my lifetime of 60 years. After awhile, you realize this is the scam. You extract as much money as you can from a corporation, then declare bankruptcy. If you an figure out a self-sustaining scam, you'll succeed longer - but remember that the world first corporation, The Dutch East India Trading Company (who are the 'bad guys' in the Pirates of the Caribbean series), also declared bankrupcty after years of success, so the pattern and con is as old as the first time it was pulled off. It's the oldest grift in the west and legal if you can get away with it.

First time director J.C. Chandor (left) won seven awards for this, and received an Oscar nomination for screenplay directly for the screen (it lost to Woody’s Midnight in Paris). For a debut film, this is quite professional, and bodes well for the films of Chandor’s to follow.


R.Hamilton August 1, 2012 at 2:07 PM  

I awarded you the Liebster award, to collect it go here http://movielabyrinth.blogspot.fr/2012/08/the-liebster-award.html

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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