Filled Under: drama

Margin call

Demi Moore

Demi Moore

Around four years back, most people saw the chain reaction of financial disaster. High level investment companies located in different parts of the world had to declare bankruptcy.

The major reason for bankruptcy was the housing bubble destruction and the resultant decrease in value of real estate in the US and abroad. These changes led to a drastic change in economic structure, such that they could only be addressed by a congressional bailout.

Margin Call was released in the year 2011, and it accurately weaves a cold, yet compelling story. This review of the movie ‘margin call’ describes how the movie is connected to real life.

Most of the movie is shot inside a NY investment company, where characters speak about complex financial terms that are unknown to a common man, but J.C. Chandor manages to immerse viewers in the panic where actions mean more than words.

The movie plot has a strong connection with reality. In the beginning of the film, the investment company, which is not named but appears to be related to Lehman Bros, has just fired 4/5th of its total employees. One of the fired employees is Eric (played by Stanley Tucci), he worked as head of the risk analysis department. While leaving the office he hands over a flash drive to Peter (played by Zachary Quinto) and asks him to analyze data carefully.

Peter finds some shocking facts in the data storage device given by Eric, and reports them to his seniors. Seth (played by Pen Badgley) his supervisor Will (played by Paul Bettany) and their boss Sam (played by Kevin Spacey), gather in the office at night to view the data left by Eric.

All these characters discuss a number of financial facts with each other, and the bottom line is that their company and the whole market are rapidly moving towards disaster. The rest of the movie is shot inside the emergency meeting conducted during the same night. The role of Sarah Robertson a senior executive is played by Demi Moore (picture above), while Jeremy Irons plays the role of the company’s CEO John Tuld.

Later that night, the company’s higher management took several decisions that depict several bitter truths of the investment sector. These major decisions are related to mortgage backed securities, which are securities backed by real estate mortgages. These are the securities that started the crisis in 2008.

The company CEO and investment floor head i.e. Sam take several decisions that are in the company’s interest, but totally against investor interest. Sam announces that he will be giving 7 figure bonuses to his traders if they are able to sell off 93% of the mortgage backed securities. These huge bonuses are offered as traders will lose all their clients after deceiving them by selling securities that will collapse in value (as everyone will try to sell them). The management feels that sharp gains and losses are all a part of the economic game.

The top actors played at their best. The movie has a close relationship with reality and the 2008 financial crisis. Investment companies often misguide their clients to invest in securities that are soon going to lose their all their cash and financial worth, and become nothing more than a piece of paper.

The cold hearted behavior of senior company executives has been depicted with perfection. Kevin Spacey and Paul Bettany acted really well in the film, especially in the places where they showed lack of interest in investor’s benefits. J.C. Chandor, the writer and director of Margin Call received a lot of accolades for creating it, and it’s his finest creation till date.

Departures

Kimiko Yo

Kimiko Yo

A very interesting Japanese movie.

This movie won an Oscar for the best foreign language film of 2008, as well as prizes in Japan.

I found “Departures” to be quite a refreshing movie. Refreshing from the usual Hollywood fast paced type production that has overwhelmed the Western market for a long time.

There is a mix of comical misunderstandings within a very serious subject, i.e. death. This is a slow paced movie with a lot of drama. No special effects or big budget, but an emphasis on the characters.

Daigo is a chronic screw-up who changes his career from an orchestra cellist to working for departures, as the orchestra is disbanded. He thought that “departure” was some sort of travel agency for which he applied through an ad, and little did he know that the company deals with encoffination, i.e. the ceremonial preparation of corpses for cremation.

Initially taken aback by the revelation that the job involves dealing with dead people, he slowly gets immersed in his new duties and progressively learns to master them to the level of an art reminiscent of flower arrangement. As it consists in cleaning and preparing the dead bodies in slow rituals.

He works with his taciturn boss Ikuei Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and his beautiful secretary Yuriko Kamimura (Kimiko Yo). The trio forms an unlikely morbid set.

The movie takes place for the most part in the countryside of Japan at and around the small town of Sakata, Yamagata. Beautiful pictures of this simple and ancestral lifestyle, entirely Japanese as foreigners do not wander in this area. Bathhouse, local houses or a river full of dying salmon in a mountain scenery.

Death is the central theme so if you are looking for a comedy this is not what I recommend, even though there is a constant sense of irony in most situations. But this is one of the saddest movie that I have seen recently, and the beautiful cello music accompanying the events is a good choice to make this sense of sadness even more powerful.

Another theme is the (estranged) father. Or his absence, as Daigo has not seen his in thirty years, since he left them with a waitress. This is sad as well because his father has left a strong mark in Daigo’s psyche, or rather what has become a scar now. He cannot even remember his father’s face.

But it is his father who made him study the cello while still a toddler, and hence he has had a profound influence on Daigo’s destiny despite his disappearance. Daigo still keeps a stone that his father gave him.

The message of the movie: parents have an immense influence on their children.