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J.C. Chandor
Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto , Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci
Writing Credits:
J.C. Chandor

Be first. Be smarter. Or cheat.

A thriller that revolves around the key people at a investment bank over a 24-hour period during the early stages of the financial crisis.

Box Office:
$3.395 million.
Opening Weekend
$561.904 thousand on 56 screens.
Domestic Gross
$4.944 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 12/20/2011

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director JC Chandor and Producer Neal Dodson
• Two Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Revolving Door: Making Margin Call” Featurette
• “Missed Calls: Moments with Cast and Crew” Featurette
• Photo Gallery
• Sneak Peeks


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Margin Call [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 21, 2011)

According to the Blu-ray’s case, The New Yorker declared 2011’s Margin Call “the best Wall Street movie ever made”. That sounds impressive until you realize that Wall Street hasn’t been the subject of all that many films beyond 1987’s Wall Street and its 2010 sequel. Some pictures – like 1983’s Trading Places - touch on it tangentially, and many documentaries cover it, but I don’t think a whole lot of feature films can really be called “Wall Street movies”.

Potential critical hyperbole aside, Call looked interesting so I gave it a go. Set in 2008, the story takes place over the span of one 24-hour period. A round of layoffs decimates the staff at a long-established brokerage firm, including mid-level risk management supervisor Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci).

On the way out of the building, Dale passes a flash drive to Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), a younger employee who managed to avoid the massacre. Dale was working on a project that he lacked the time to complete, but he still wants someone to continue to investigate it.

Sullivan fires up the drive and discovers data that shows the company has been making riskier and riskier moves. These threaten to saddle them with enormous losses that may harpoon the entire firm. We watch as those involved attempt to deal with the situation and its ramifications.

With its large ensemble cast and cutthroat business themes, Margin Call will evoke images of David Mamet’s work, and I suspect the filmmakers knew that. Though it doesn’t spend all of its time at the office building, much of it stays there, and one could easily image a stage play version of the story; it’s intensely focused on its characters and narrative without much to veer away from those areas.

Despite a script full of Mamet-like profanity, Margin Call lacks the bite one would associate with the legendary writer. That doesn’t make it bad, but it does mean the film seems less urgent and dynamic than I might expect. Given its story of financial malfeasance and disaster, the tale feels oddly dispassionate. While it tells us of potential crisis, we don’t really feel it, so the drama doesn’t pack as much punch as one might expect.

It does manage to put a human face on the corporate side of the financial crisis, though, and I regard that as a good thing. In no way, shape or form does the film try to excuse all the financial greed, but at least it shows that many of those involved paid a price as well; it wasn’t all fat cats getting fatter.

Though that was a lot of it, as represented by the flick’s only “hissable” character: CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons). Tuld shows himself to be focused more on money than on people and represents the movie’s “one percent” aspect, which makes him the nominal villain. Even then, however, the flick doesn’t turn him into a cartoon baddie. While Tuld presents the most obvious depiction of money over humanity, he still manages some more three-dimensional elements and shows an understanding of the world.

Call doesn’t spend much time with Huld, though, as we get to know lower-level sorts in a more complete manner. They’re the ones we care about, even though we know we shouldn’t. After all, these are guys who make six or seven figure salaries and still manage to blow most of the money – literally – on booze and hookers. Why do we give two hoots what happens to them?

Inexplicably, we do, though I suspect an excellent cast helps. In addition to the actors mentioned, Call features Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany and Simon Baker in prominent roles. Heck, the cast is so deep that it even has the wherewithal to throw away Mary McDonnell in a tiny role. The performers add life to their parts and allow the film a depth it might’ve lacked with less capable thespians.

Margin Call doesn’t become a total winner, mostly because of the somewhat sluggish pace I mentioned; it just doesn’t possess the drama one might expect and want. Nonetheless, it delivers an interesting “from the inside” take on the financial meltdown and gives us an involving view of that world.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Margin Call appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a consistently good transfer.

For the most part, sharpness looked fine. Mild softness occasionally interfered with the image, especially in wider shots. Still, the majority of the film provided positive delineation, so I didn’t have major complaints. No signs of jaggies or edge haloes occurred, but I noticed minor shimmering in a shot of an escalator. Source flaws were absent, as I noticed no specks, marks or other issues.

The movie went with a somewhat chilly, subdued palette that seemed good. Not a lot of vivid hues appeared, but when they did, they were full, and the other tones looked appropriate within the movie’s design. Blacks appeared dark and dense, while shadows were clear and appropriate. Overall, I liked the image enough for a “B+”.

Expect a thoroughly acceptable DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. As one might expect for a movie about the financial world, this was a chatty film, so don’t expect a slam-bang mix. The soundscape showed good breadth for music and environmental elements. Exteriors offered the most life, as they captured late-night Manhattan well. An arriving helicopter and some club scenes boasted the most involving audio, but they offered exceptions to the rule; most of the film remained low-key in terms of the soundfield.

Audio quality was fine. Speech always appeared concise and natural, so the lines seemed solid. Although music remained quiet and restrained, the score showed appropriate range and reproduction. Effects also played a small role but came across with reasonable accuracy. Though it lacked the power to earn an above-average grade, the soundtrack seemed fine for a movie of this sort.

When we shift to extras, we check out an audio commentary from writer/director JC Chandor and producer Neal Dodson. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, story/character/script areas, research and attempts at realism, cast and performances, editing, and a few other production areas.

Chandor and Dodson have a lot to say, but not all – or even probably most - of the material digs into aspects of the film. Chandor often tends to narrate the flick, and both guys throw out an awful lot of praise for flick.

Despite those moments, I appreciate their enthusiasm for the movie, and they still manage to give us a reasonable amount of information about Call. The weaker aspects of the track make it inconsistent, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

Two Deleted Scenes appear. We see “Inside Tips” (2:07) and “Strike Quick” (2:24). The first shows an accidental encounter between Sullivan and an ex-girlfriend on the street in which he warns her to “sell”, while the second depicts Fuld’s “pep talk” prior to the climactic sell-off. Both are interesting to see but not consequential.

We can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Chandor and Dodson. They tell us a bit about the sequences and let us know why the pieces got the boot. They give us some decent thoughts about the material.

Two featurettes follow. Revolving Door: Making Margin Call goes for five minutes, 57 seconds and comes with notes from Chandor, his dad – and former Merrill Lynch employee – Jeff Chandor, and actors Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci. “Door” looks at story and characters, Chandor’s approach to the material, cast and performances, and a few general notes. A few minor notes pop up here but the program is mostly soft and promotional.

Missed Calls: Moments with Cast and Crew lasts a whopping one minutes, six seconds and provides a few shots from the set. I like this kind of material, but “Calls” is so brief that it’s almost useless.

We also get a Photo Gallery. This shows a running montage of production pictures; they fill a total of three minutes, 41 seconds and mix behind the scenes images with shots from the movie. These seem decent but unmemorable.

The disc opens with ads for Answers to Nothing, Albert Nobbs, The Conspirator, Winter’s Bone, Pulp Fiction and I Love You Phillip Morris. These show up under Also from Lionsgate as well but no trailer for Margin Call appears here.

With a surprisingly human tone, Margin Call delivers a fairly involving take on the recent financial crisis. It lacks immense bite and can seem a little undramatic at times, but I like the manner in which it personalizes the issues. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture and acceptable audio; supplements aren’t exceptional, but the commentary adds value. Margin Call delivers a thoughtful and engaging take on the Wall Street collapse.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.125 Stars Number of Votes: 8
6 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main