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  /  Investing   /  A long night’s journey into catastrophe

A long night’s journey into catastrophe

Financial movies always portray sin and greed. Yet, we are always attracted to those few yet realistic movies. Mostly because we like to see the extremes with which humans operate in the world of cash that, for someone on the outside looks so formal and organised. Margin Call is one such movie. Claimed to have been inspired by real-life events the movie centers around the backdrop of the incoming catastrophic 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, Margin Call looks at an investment firm and how they unravel the gravity of their situation within a gloomy and scary night.

Source – IMDb

The movie begins with an unnamed investment firm that many speculate represents the Lehman Brothers and some to be Goldman Sachs, in the middle of a layoff process, where people are shown leaving, clearing out 80% of the workforce. The ruthlessness with which the way people are removed sets a tone for the entire movie which keeps on piling up the detachment of human emotions that is a regular sight on Wall Street.

One of the victims of the layoff Eric Dale, played by Stanley Tucci, a fearless and stoic character finds something disturbing but isn’t able to complete his research as he is forced to leave his office. On his way out he slips a USB drive to Peter Sullivan, the likeable rocket scientist-turned-analyst, telling him as the elevator door dramatically closes to look into the information and “be careful”. 

As Peter dives into the data trying to complete the puzzle, he arrives at the problem that propels the storyline. With his bosses Will Emerson and Sam Rogers played by the amazing Paul Bettany and evocative Kevin Spacey respectively, realizing the destructive potency of the findings call in an executive meeting to decide the course of action.

Source – IMDb

The movie is about how an investment firm decides, within the span of a night to survive. They realize that the subprime mortgage bonds that they have been dealing with and are currently holding in their books are slowly reducing in value due to the fact that the mortgages in them are not being paid by the people they were loaned to, and the fact that if these assets decreased by 25% (which in the real world they did and went far beyond that) the losses would be more than the market capitalization of the entire firm. So, what do they do? They sell everything to ignorant buyers.

The movie portrays the culture of Wall Street beautifully. The cold-heartedness of its characters, the rat race of getting to the top and the ever-expansive need for more and more money.

A splendidly talented cast of actors employed to make financial talk into cool compelling dialogues, with them explaining the complexities of financial terminologies and jibber-jabber with quite ease, such that it pulls the viewers to keep on listening to what the good-looking (who still look as though they have just started their day even though they had no sleep the entire night) characters are trying to convey. 

One of my favorite dialogues is by the head of the fictitious firm John Tuld played by the villainously superb Jeremy Irons who says as he’s being explained by his top executives that their balance sheet is full of assets that will soon be equated with crap that “there are three ways of making money in this business-be first, be smarter or cheat”, and that is when the slyness of the characters really settles in. Irons does an excellent job of coming out as the super-villain who finally makes the margin call. In other words, to order his company to start dumping worthless holdings before the word spread that they are worthless — essentially, betraying their customers.

Source – IMDb

The thriller gives a sneak peek into what might have gone through the minds of people on Wall Street when they realised the crisis was imminent and ass their companies and lives are slowly being rendered meaningless. The movie shows how a group of guys and a woman (Sarah Robinson played by Demi Moore) try to salvage the value of their company over the period of one night as some of them fight with their emotions about what they are about to do and face. A fantastic movie for a weekend watch.

Written by- Prahlad Borthakur

Edited by- Nanditha Menon

The post A long night’s journey into catastrophe appeared first on The Economic Transcript.

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