Written and directed by J.C. Chandor this tautly wound script and story-telling style brings to mind a great play. Mostly due to the workman-like office settings, this enables Chandor and his merry bunch of talented actors to unfurl the story in a way unusual to film. That’s not to say it hasn’t been done before and brilliantly (12 Angry Men, Glengarry Glenross, All the President’s Men) but it’s rarely done well and often enough.

The realistic, theatrical approach allows the protagonists of the piece, yet antagonists of the well-being of capitalist society, to be shown as humans, not merely some callous rogues that will probably end up dead or in jail.

This is a film about capitalism, greed and how far it can be taken. Loosely based on the American financial crisis of 2008/9 it draws on, without being specific, the world of Goldman Sachs, the Lehmann Brothers and Bear Stearns. Using an un-named Wall Street investment company allows investigation of an event that was probably a long time coming. It manages to keep the stakes high and feel like this is how it could have probably went down.

Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) gets fired from a big investment firm as part of a major culling. The project he was working on before he was ejected from the building has implications too huge for the immediate bosses to see. He hands over a USB to one of his underlings, Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), who stays behind to work on it, discovering information that requires him to call his boss late at night with the not so great news. And so the wheel begins to turn on an event that will have far-reaching effects on many, many lives.

Jeremy Irons (John Tuld) reminds us of how great an actor he is playing the head of the un-named company and Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) has the moral dilemma at the forefront of his day/night and plays it brilliantly. Paul Bettany is very believable as a Londoner working with the big boys on Wall Street and Penn Badgely plays Zachary Quinto’s junior work mate well, as always.
Thoroughly well supported by Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Mary McDonnell and Aasif Mandvi, all the actors here realise they are getting a chance to really act…on film. Clever dialogue, no histrionics, just great story-telling makes this an important film that deserves to be seen.

Margin Call was J.C.Chandor’s first film, as a director and writer on it he shows that he is a director to watch out for. A mark has been made.

Now do I really have to watch All is Lost?