Release Date: 2011
Director: J.C. Chandor
Why I picked this: Recommendation
As someone with only a basic knowledge of economics, business, and the 2008 financial crisis, the specifics and plot details were a little lost on me. However, I felt that I didn’t need them, as the movie’s use of visual language and its performances told me everything that I needed to do. I didn’t completely have a good grasp of the conflict in hand, but I could understand the gravity of the situation. I didn’t completely understand why the characters were at risk, but I knew that they were. The film didn’t tell me everything about the characters, but I could understand them just from their dialogue. This movie follows a firm, presumably a fictional one based on real ones (it is not named) reacting to the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis, or an event based on it. Taking place over a little more than a day, it begins with risk analyst Peter Sullivan, played by Zachary Quinto, working from his recently fired boss’s work to discover a problem, one that must be dealt with immediately, with dire consequences if it isn’t. Like I said, I have a basic understanding. Mostly taking place late at night and early in the morning, various meetings take place in order to deal with the conflict, taking the audience to meet the higher-ups in the firm, played by, in order of their character’s hierarchy, Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker, ending with Jeremy Irons playing the CEO. As the movie goes higher up in the chain, each boss has a worse understanding of the situation. Bettany, Spacey, and Irons have the best screen presence, with the former two being the most fleshed out and interesting characters. The dialogue is smartly written, sounding very professional in nature and revealing of character traits. The direction utilizes many basic filming techniques, but they are used effectively to create an atmosphere of impending disaster. It touches upon themes of greed and the importance of credibility, but I especially liked the film for its depiction of a hierarchy.
Its specific details might not make sense to the average moviegoers, but great performances, a smart script, a distinct atmosphere, and especially its timeliness make this an important movie for our age.