Margin Call – 8.5

This is, I suspect, as good a movie as we will get about the financial meltdown of 2008. While not an accurate picture of any one company or situation, there seem to be real-life precedents for almost everything in the film, starting with the basic dilemma: do I have any moral obligation not to sell someone a security I know to be worth a lot less than I am asking? The all-night executive meetings, the internal politicking, the smoothly aloof ceo, the sudden layoffs, the destroyed marriages – these all rang true from the newspaper and book accounts I’ve read. Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons had broad roles that were almost overplayed, but not quite; Simon Baker and Paul Bettany were impeccable; Stanley Tucci and Demi Moore were solid. But the real stars were Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgley, who played underlings caught in the vortex as thoroughly convincing 23- and 28-year-olds, respectively. Kudos, too, to the background music, which kept the tension ratcheted on high the whole way.

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