November 03, 2011
Go See Margin Call
Posted by David Zaring

I want to echo Peter's praise of Margin Call, which you can on-demand, and which is the best movie about the financial crisis I've seen yet.  It's nothing more than bankers desparately scheming how to save their investment bank over a 36 hour period once they realize, after firing the one risk manager who was working on the problem, that a volatile market has rendered them insolvent.  As recognition of the immensity of their plight moves up the org chart (or maybe down to the next circle of hell), the junior risk manager hero, even-keeled Zachary Quinto, encounters ever more terrifying specimens of supervisor.  Which is to say that it's a character movie, full of people talking, and that's about it.  Kevin Spacey's excellent, but so is Simon Baker of TV's The Mentalist as a scarily insousciant empty suit.  I wasn't crazy about Jeremy's Irons' scenery chewing man-at-the-top, or Penn Badgeley's change of heart at the bottom, but in a film about characters, I suppose you can't plan on liking every character.  I predict it will be seen at business schools for many years to come.

What about law schools?  It's a less obvious fit - there's a negligible lawyer character, played by Aasif Mandvi, but this film is about traders and risk (which it actually seems to understand, in contrast to some documentaries about the financial crisis I could name).  Still, if you lawyered for a bank, or want to lawyer for one, Magin Call is worth your time.

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