As you already know, I have been to the opening night of the New Directors Festival at the Moma to attend the screening of Margin Call, a movie by young filmmaker J. C. Chandor.
I have to confess it straight away: the only reason why I wanted to see so badly this picture, it is because Jeremy Irons has a part in it. The financial world is not exactly my cup of tea, and movies like Wall Street simply make me feel sick, so - to tell you the truth - I wasn’t that ready to love a picture about the economic crisis. Sometimes, though, cinema is just like this: you go there prepared to see a movie you probably won’t like, and then you like it a lot. Margin Call narrates (very intensely) 24 hours in the life of a Wall Street financial company: the 24 hours preceding the economic meltdown of 2008. A group of people is involved in the events: a couple of young employees who discover that something is going wrong, and their different bosses. When the situation seems pretty desperate, in the middle of the night, takes place an unexpected Board of Directors with the President of the company in order to assume urgent and radical decisions. In the morning, the company will be saved, while the rest of the world will start its slow descent into poverty.
The good thing about Margin Call is that the approach of Chandor is a humanistic one: he is interested in showing how this extreme situation is perceived and lived by the different people involved, if ethic is a word still having a meaning in this kind of world and how human beings are affected by jobs like this.
And, apparently, there is something rotten in Wall Street.
In one of the greatest scenes of the movie, one of the bosses of the company is crying over the imminent death of his dog and three seconds afterwards he's making the most cynical speech to his employees about the reasons why some of them have just been fired and some others are still there. Power and money have consumed the soul of the oldest guys: this is a fight for survival and any blow under the belt is admitted. The youngest ones are looking at their bosses with a mix of admiration and disbelief: you can see that they wish to be like them, to earn as much money, to have that kind of power over other people and that they’re ready to pay any price in terms of human feelings to reach that position. This is particularly clear when the President arrives in their offices by private helicopter and with just few conversations and radical (almost inhuman) decisions solve the problem for them letting their investors losing all the money. The weakest ones are the ones who are fired, and who will not survive. And even when one of the bosses has a moment of indecision and unexpected qualms of guilt, it is simply too late for him to step back or to pretend he is not an active part of this scary machine.
Chandor filmed this movie last summer in just few weeks and you can feel the urgency, the feverish atmosphere and the intensity of the experience. He also managed to gather a very good group of actors: besides Jeremy Irons (as the President of the company), the cast includes Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto and Simon Baker. When Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey are together on screen, despite the unsettling feeling the movie was giving me, I realized I was suddenly relaxing in my seat. Their performance was so overwhelming that I couldn’t be bothered by any financial or ethical problem. I was just enjoying to see them playing so well. There are things that, after all, even money can’t buy…