Margin Call

Rated 4.0

Margin Call gives an account of the 2008 financial collapse via an overnight drama inside the offices of a Lehman Bros.-like firm which suddenly finds itself on the verge of collapse. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor, it creates a pungent and distinctive gallery of the sorts of characters who might have been caught up in such a pivotal moment. Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Stanley Tucci have the key roles, with Simon Baker, Paul Bettany and Demi Moore close-by, and two relative unknowns, Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgely, as youthful traders who stumble onto the impending debacle. Irons plays the suavely ruthless and ultimately amoral C.E.O., and Baker is chillingly charismatic as a cold-hearted manager. They are the film’s chief icons of self-insulated greed, but the most intriguing characters are those who still have some measure of moral scruple—Tucci’s would-be whistleblower, Quinto’s eager-beaver numbers-cruncher, and especially Spacey’s straight-talking veteran of the business. There’s no real speechifying and moralizing in Chandor’s lucid script—he lets the characters indict themselves by what they say and do in the course of the crisis they, knowingly or not, have helped create. Pageant Theatre. Rated R.