Margin Call (Blu-ray Review)

While watching Margin Call, a movie that I overall enjoyed, mainly due to the ensemble cast, I felt like wishing I could appreciate it more, given the subject matter.  It is based around the events leading up to the start of the 2007-2008 financial crisis and feels like a film that could be easily watched by someone more clued into economic affairs.  Honestly, I am just not that person.  Regardless of how I intake my news and grasp on the economy, however, I did manage to approach Margin Call with a level of understanding based on how I can rate the film in regards to its cast, pacing, filmmaking etc.  While some elements may feel a bit murky to me, this Blu-ray gave me enough to consider in order to properly review it.


Margin Call follows the actions taken by a group of employees at a large investment bank during the financial collapse.  It focuses on a 36-hour period, which follows what happens after risk analysts Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) and Seth Bregman (Penn Badgely) discover something very important.  Their boss, Eric Dale (Stanely Tucci), is fired by an HR team conducting mass layoffs, which leads Eric to give Peter a USB drive.  This drive actual contains a project, which leads to the discovery that their firm will soon suffer great losses.  Peter and Seth soon bring this to the attention of the trading desk head, Will Emerson (Paul Bettany), and floor head, Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), who must then bring this information up to all of the senior executives and CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons).  The rest of the film revolves around a long night, where everyone gathers to take all considerations and make all plans possibly to limit the amount of losses and the firm’s own exposure in all of this.

The film does come off as pretty technically focused, when it comes to dealing with the financial issues of an investment firm, let alone a bit bland for those those who don’t find much cinematic appeal in the subject matter.  For some, however, Margin Call may stand as one of the best Wall Street films of all time.  I personally don’t really stand in that category, but I do appreciate what this film has to offer.

From a filmmaking standpoint, I can say that it remained a pretty engaging watch throughout.  There is a notable drop in energy during the second act, compared to how involved I felt with what was going on during the film’s opening and setup, but as the drama wore down on the various parties involved, the film picked up the pace and managed deliver in its closing.  Writer/director J.C. Chandor, making his feature-length film debut, does enough to make subject matter, which is pretty give-or-take when it comes to watching it in the form of a filmed narrative, watchable.  Its staging feels very akin to something like Glengarry Glenn Ross, but with less of that film’s impact, despite having a bigger cast, more at stake, and a more topical story.

What really makes Margin Call watchable is its fantastic ensemble cast.  Given that the film is very much about people having arguments about the various troubles of their situation, seeing how various reactions play out, how people position themselves, etc., really clues one into how the subtleties play into a film of this type, which is not about showiness.  Particular standouts are Spacey, Tucci, Bettany, Quinto, and of course Jeremy Irons.  Even if I could not connect on a more emotional level with the film, it still managed to provide a great look at the exercise of a lot of actors really putting in their all.

Hopefully I have provided enough to give a good idea of what to expect from this film, despite the obvious lack of depth I have regarding my knowledge and connection to the facts involving the recent financial crisis.  Assessing Margin Call as a film, I can say that it was satisfying, especially in the early and later segments.  The first rate cast definitely held their own, with much of the atmosphere being effectively created based on their interactions with each other.  Not the kind of film that I generally seek out, but well enough made to satisfy.



The Blu-ray disc for Margin Call is fitted with a 1080p AVC encoded transfer.  Filmed digitally, on the Red Camera, this is not a film that is overly showy with visuals, but the transfer onto Blu is solid.  The majority of the film takes place indoors and focuses on basically men in suits and lots of close-ups.  Because of this, the color palette for the film comes off well enough and the amount of contrast between various visual elements does not call attention to itself.  For a fairly independent film that does not do a lot in regards to visual splendor, this is a pretty good looking video transfer.


The audio presentation for Margin Call is about equal to its video presentation.  The disc features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which is provides plenty for this film, which is so heavy with dialogue and shot mostly indoors.  Given the investment firm setting, background noises during work hours manage to feel nicely balanced, as do the more secluded scenes where ambient noises are quietly registering as well.  It is an effective audio track, which does well for the film.

Special Features: 

While not bursting with extra features, Margin Call does include a few extras, all presented in HD, which is good enough to supplement the feature.

Features Include:

Director and Producer Feature Commentary

“Revolving Door”:  Making Margin Call – A very brief making-of featurette.

“Missed Calls”:  Moments with Cast and Crew – A gag reel.

“From the Deck”:  Photo Gallery

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary

Final Thoughts: 

Margin Call is a fine film and a neat look at the high-stakes world of the financial industry.  Those with much more of an interest in the subject matter should certainly check this film out and others should at least be able to admire a great ensemble cast working together in a pretty well made film.  The Blu-ray does great service to the feature, providing quality audio and video presentations, even if the extras are a bit on the scant side, especially if one was seeking more insight into the subject matter presented in the film.  Great cast in a pretty good film nonetheless.

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2 Responses to “Margin Call (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Matt Goodman

    It can’t be any worse than The Company Men.

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Company Men rocked, Matt. I saw Margin Call a few weeks ago and thought it was pretty damn cool.