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Release Date(s)2011 (December 20, 2011)
Studio(s)Roadside Attractions (Lionsgate)
The ambition of Margin Call is almost realized. Certainly in its casting and the quality of performances delivered by the likes of Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Zachary Quinto, and particularly Jeremy Irons, the film soars.
The film's relevance to the present day in its efforts to invoke the spectre of the recent economic meltdown is also admirably solid. The plot appears to revolve around a New York investment firm's efforts to deal with a crisis due to questionable mortgages that threatens to bankrupt it. I say "appears" because it's in relation to its screenplay that Margin Call is most on shaky ground. The viewer is left to guess what really is going on most of the time. Despite even characters in the film asking to have the crisis explained to them in terms a child could understand, they and we never have anything explained satisfactorily (although "they" pretend to understand). While we care little about the ultimate fate of the investment firm, there's certainly a sadness invoked concerning the individuals caught up in the mess, particularly the older ones who have made and make a lot of money, but have little happiness to match it. The Spacey character who's the firm's chief operations manager is the most pathetic of the lot. After 34 years of service, he has a broken marriage, back-breaking alimony, and a dying dog that appears to be his best and perhaps only friend, to show for it all. Margin Call is available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate. The 1.78:1 image is solid for the most part. There are a lot of close-ups in the film and these always look very sharp. Facial features are finely detailed and nicely delineated even in the sometimes shadowy lighting seemingly favoured by the director (J.C. Chandor). The film's colour palette is slightly subdued and is well presented on Blu-ray. The 5.1 DTS HD Master audio isn't given a great workout by the dialogue-driven script, but what we get is clear and concise. There's some evidence of effective directional effects in both dialogue and ambient sounds (noticeably in respect to phones ringing and conversations in the trading rooms). English and Spanish subtitles are provided. The supplements are highlighted by an audio commentary by the director, J.C. Chandor, and co-producer Neal Dodson. It's admirably thorough on the film production and casting side of things but like the film itself, less so on explaining the financial basis of the plot. Other supplements include a photo gallery and three short segments (6 minutes max) offering deleted scenes, rudimentary making-of comments, and cast and crew slips. Recommended as a rental.