I decided to watch Margin Call the other evening to see if it was something folks interested in the markets would find interesting.
Conclusion? I’m not sure.
I will say that the cast is a pretty impressive one. Kevin Spacey gets top billing, but most of the characters are portrayed by folks with lengthy lists of acting credits, oftentimes pretty high profile. I found it interesting that they would all be drawn to a film like this that isn’t super high profile. Demi Moore plays the one female character of note.
So as not to spoil things for those who intend on watching the film, I’ll just say the plot is basically one where a major financial firm finds itself in a bad spot in terms of mortgage security holdings and has to work its way out of it. Actually, the story is that simple and straightforward. No major plot twists. There also isn’t too much in the way of high level quant stuff aside from a VAR reference, though there could easily have been (for better or worse, depending on your point of view). There did seem to be a reference to the so-called formula that killed Wall Street, though.
I was tempted to call it a morality tale, but that’s not really a good description. The story’s major tension is one of character perspective and turmoil between the idea of doing what needs to be done for the sake of the firm (at least as they see it) and the impact that could/would have in the broader scope. There is no real attempt to provide a “right” answer, though. It ends up being more a question of characters working through their own issues.
Overall, I found the film a bit plodding and lacking in the kind of tension and drama that pulls through to the conclusion of movies like Wall Street (the original, not the sequel) and Dealers. This one ends with a bit of a whimper.