New York 2008, a group of employees in an unnamed investment firm (loosely based on Lehman Brothers – you see where this is going) race against time, as the earth shifts below their feet, to stave off pending doom or at least delay the immediate effects. In an opening scene that could just as well have been from Up in the Air events are set in motion when the recently fired Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) passes off his concerns in the form of a pen drive to his protégé Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto – you remember, Spock – also one of the producers) with the ominous warning “Be careful”. Dale had worked out that future losses will exceed the firm’s total market capitalization. Didn’t get that? It’s basically the reason for everything that follows but don’t worry they explain it more than a few times with reducing degrees of complexity.
Writer-director J.C Chandor, whose father worked for Merrill Lynch, has forged a thrilling synecdoche of what brought on the global financial crisis. Directing an ensemble cast of familiar faces (some climbing their way up out of TV and others trying to stave of their own pending doom) Chandor shines in his debut feature length (although it may not be a Reservoir Dogs or Layer Cake but given the subject matter I think he’s done well) with a tight narrative focused on the 24 hours before the first domino fell. Aesthetically pleasing shots that bring an intimacy and increased intensity to every moment (almost entirely shot in close-up or a medium shot) and choice of editing that at times contrast the chaos of the microcosm (can financial institutions still be called that?) with the serenity of the ever present city (clear evidence that ignorance is indeed bliss) increase the movie’s appeal without increasing its gravitas. The dialogue, although at times unnatural simply because it seems too pristine, is also a delight at times with the best lines going to both Jeremy Irons and Paul Bettany.
Those expecting an amped up drama like that of Wall Street will be sorely disappointed; this is a movie of a different breed. Held up by solid acting, Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey delightful as always, and a good script this aptly timed movie is a good watch but if you happen to miss it don’t beat yourself up about it.[youtube:http://youtu.be/Y2DqFRsPrns%5D