The new movie Margin Call
, starring Stanley Tucci and Kevin Spacey, is getting rave reviews from people in finance.
Unfortunately, the exact reason finance people will like it is the exact reason it will have zero commercial appeal.
The 30-second recap: Margin Call takes place at a fictional bank in
the early days of the financial crisis. The bank sees the writing on the
wall, and its CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) makes the decision to dump a
ton of MBS onto the laps of customers, a move that may save the bank's
balance sheet but potentially ruin its reputation among clients (not to
mention ruin the reputation of traders who have to sweet talk clients
into buying into the firesale).
The film explores the moral dimension of high finance: Sam Rogers
(Spacey), the longtime head of the fixed-income trading floor, wrestles
with the ethics of Tuld's move, and wonders whether he should've just
gone into ditch-digging. An up-and-coming young risk analyst with a
background in physics tries to believe that the whole thing is more than
It's all good stuff, and well-acted.
But ultimately, it's just too real to be likable for most people.
Rogers actually uses lines like "unwind our fixed-income MBS book." The
characters don't get into shouting matches: They have serious
discussions where they go over numbers at big boardroom tables. Traders
talk to clients and use phrases like "offloading risk." And they even
talk about Value At-Risk. Also: There are Bloomberg
terminals galore in the movie.