Margin Call

Margin Call
Margin Call

Theatrical release poster
Directed by J.C. Chandor
Produced by Robert Ogden Barnum
Michael Benaroya
Neal Dodson
Joe Jenckes
Corey Moosa
Zachary Quinto
Written by J.C. Chandor
Starring Kevin Spacey
Paul Bettany
Jeremy Irons
Zachary Quinto
Penn Badgley
Simon Baker
Mary McDonnell
Demi Moore
Stanley Tucci
Music by Nathan Larson
Cinematography Frank DeMarco
Editing by Pete Beaudreau
Studio Before the Door Pictures
Distributed by Roadside Attractions
Release date(s) January 25, 2011 (2011-01-25) (Sundance)
October 21, 2011 (2011-10-21) (United States)
Running time 109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3.4–3.5 million (est.)[1][2]
Box office $7,417,387 (worldwide)[3]

Margin Call is a 2011 American independent drama film, written and directed by J.C. Chandor, and starring Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, and Penn Badgley. The film takes place over a 24-hour period at a large investment bank (loosely modeled on Lehman Brothers [4][5]) and focuses on the financial crisis of 2007–2008.[6][7] The film follows the actions taken by a group of employees during the financial collapse.[8]

The film was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011 and opened on October 21, 2011 in the United States.



Junior employees Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley) and Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) and senior trader Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) watch as a human resources team conducts mass layoffs on their trading floor. One of the fired employees is Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), who works in risk management. Before leaving, Dale gives Peter a USB drive with a project he had been working on, telling him to "be careful." That night, Peter finishes the project, and discovers that trading will soon exceed the historical volatility levels used by the firm to calculate risk. Because of excessive leverage, if the firm's assets in mortgage backed securities decrease by 25%, the firm will suffer a loss greater than its market capitalization. Sullivan alerts Emerson, who calls head of sales Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey).

The employees remain at the firm all night for a series of meetings with more senior executives, including head of securities Jared Cohen (Simon Baker) and head of risk Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore), and finally CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons). Tuld reveals that his plan is simply to sell off all of the toxic assets before the market can react to the news of their worthlessness, thereby limiting the firm's exposure. Rogers knows this will spread the risk throughout the financial sector and will destroy the firm's relationships with its counterparties, who will never trust them again. The characters finally locate Dale, who had been missing after his company phone was turned off. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Rogers, Robertson, Cohen, and Tuld were aware of the risks in the weeks leading up to the crisis. Tuld plans to offer Robertson's resignation to the board and employees as a sacrificial lamb.

Before the markets open, Rogers tells his traders they will receive seven figure bonuses if they achieve a 93% reduction in certain MBS asset classes. He admits that the traders are effectively ending their own jobs and careers by destroying their relationships with their clients. Meanwhile, Robertson and Dale sit in an office, being paid handsomely to do nothing for the day. Emerson manages to sell off his assets, but his counterparties become increasingly agitated and suspicious as the day wears on. Having successfully reached the 93% benchmark, Rogers watches the same human resources team begin another round of layoffs on his floor. He confronts Tuld, who remarks that the current crisis is really no different from other historical panics and recessions, and sharp gains and losses are simply part of the economic cycle. He wants Rogers to stay at the firm for another two years, promising that there will be a lot of money to be made from the coming crisis. Rogers sees Sullivan meeting with Cohen about his imminent promotion, while the fates of Emerson and Bregman are not mentioned.

In the final scene, Rogers digs a hole in his ex-wife's front yard to bury his cancer-ridden dog. This is in reference to Tuld's comment that he should be thankful not to have been digging holes his whole life.

Throughout the film, one of the lower-tier employees constantly makes reference to pay packages and speculates about the salaries of higher-ranked members of the firm. As the crisis unfolds, junior traders wonder what it is like to be a "real person" who does not see the impending crisis, and condemn the public for their hypocrisy of blaming Wall Street in the bad times while enjoying the easy credit and benefits of financial industry that takes risks. Dale and Sullivan are both engineers, an allusion to Wall Street's practice of luring science and engineering specialists to build and run complex trading strategies. In a series of meetings, supervisors and managers betray their ignorance of the more technical details of Dale/Sullivan's findings: in one instance, Tuld, the CEO, directs Sullivan to explain his findings to him 'as though he were addressing a child, or a golden retriever'.



Principal photography began on June 21, 2010 in New York City.[6] More than 80 percent of the action was shot on the 42nd floor of One Penn Plaza, which had recently been vacated by a trading firm.[9][10] The film premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film also played In Competition at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for the Golden Bear.[11][12] The film was produced by Zachary Quinto's production company, Before The Door Pictures, by Quinto and his two producing partners, Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa.[13]


The film received positive reviews from critics, garnering an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[14] The New Yorker described the film as "easily the best Wall Street movie ever made".[15]


  1. ^ Kilday, Gregg (November 4, 2011). "Occupy Wall Street Boosts 'Margin Call' in Oscar Race". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  2. ^ Dodes, Rachel (October 20, 2011). "Kevin Spacey Says Bankers Are People Too". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Margin Call",Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ Kay, Jeremy, "Margin Call is a fine crash movie, but no banker", The Guardian (UK), Tuesday 25 January 2011
  5. ^ Grynbaum, Michael M., "Wall Street, With Calm, Not Hysteria", The New York Times, October 12, 2011
  6. ^ a b Dash, Eric (June 22, 2010). "Citi Goes Hollywood for Spacey and Crew". The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2010. 
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike (September 13, 2010). "Margin Call Director J.C. Chandor Snags Big Warner Bros Writing Gig From DiCaprio". Deadline New York. Retrieved October 6, 2010. 
  8. ^ Kit, Borys (June 15, 2010). "Simon Baker, Paul Bettany eye indie drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 27, 2010. [dead link]
  9. ^ Wallace. Benjamin, "What’s Up, Spock?: He might be a famous Vulcan, but Zachary Quinto has no problem being fully human", New York Magazine, October 16, 2011
  10. ^ Jon Chesto, "Director of “Margin Call” didn’t need a big budget to depict Wall Street’s mortgage meltdown",
  11. ^ "The Competition of the 61st Berlinale". Berlinale. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Spacey, Moore and 3D in focus at Berlin film fest". Yahoo News. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Before The Door Pictures, official website". Google. 
  14. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". 
  15. ^ "All That Glitters". The New Yorker. 

External links

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