First-Time director J.C. Chandoor, who also wrote “Margin Call”, somehow gets us to see the human side of the bankers that brought the world economy to its knees. If you understand that things are only worth what you can sell them for, and that the investment banks held certain “tranches” on the synthetics they were selling, you will quickly grasp how the math model projections stumbled upon by the junior risk manager portend the end of the financial markets as we know them.
How could we ever care about the fates of these greedy men, much less sympathize with them. They wiped out our retirements funds, and yet, at the end, we see what drove them. Some were venal, some were greedy, some were desperate and some were just resigned to their fate. What is stunning is that the caliber of acting draws us in and makes us care about these men.
Demi Moore, whose real name is Demetria, looks more Russian than ever. Deep fear flickers in her eyes behind the hostility of a wolverine defending her economic projections. When she faces off against Jeremy Irons, it is like watching smooth poison being spread before her.
The movie belongs to Kevin Spacey, however. Chandor’s savvy direction gives him a chance to show the conflicting emotions playing out as he tries to prevent the implosion of the company where he has spent his career. He wants to protect the young brokers working for him, he wants to protect the clients of the firm, but most of all, he wants to protect himself. Do we care? Yes, because of a brilliant performance by Spacey, which barely stands out in a stellar cast including smooth, charming, brilliant and ruthless Jeremy Irons as the guy who has to make the decision on when to pull the trigger and where to aim the gun.
It is playing in Santa Rosa at the Summerfield Theater and I hear it is available on streaming TV. Worth a watch.