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Livestream: How Wall Street’s excesses triggered the 2008 recession

In this segment, we look at business-themed documentaries, biopics, podcasts and TedTalks that are worth your time in the weekend.

Livestream: How Wall Street’s excesses triggered the 2008 recession
A still from the film


It took this journalist a while to come around and pick this title, a film which is said to be inspired by the big financial meltdown of 2008, which subsequently led to the Great Recession as we knew it. Put simply, it was the beginning of the end of good times at Wall Street.

Writer-director JC Chandor in his debut feature, sets the scene for this catastrophe from the very first frame as he trains his camera on an unsuspecting group of employees in a plush Wall Street bank, who are looking on in anticipation at the hordes of retrenchment agents making their way into their workspaces. Soon enough, a massacre is set into motion as the efficiency experts begin handing out pink slips, one after the other decimating entire office floors in the span of a workday. 

A casualty of this firing marathon is Eric Dale (Tucci), the head of risk management at the firm, who has been running some numbers prior to his dismissal. 

Before exiting the building, he hands over a pen drive to one of his risk analysts, Peter Sullivan, cautioning him to be careful. Sure enough, Sullivan’s curiosity gets the better of him and he pulls of an all-nighter, going through the contents of the USB stick. He goes on to make a shocking discovery concerning the financial health of the bank. Of course, the nature of this discovery is only hinted at through whispers and retorts in the beginning and is kept hidden from the viewer for a considerable run time of the film. 

Sullivan grows restless and summons his boss Sam (Spacey) back to office in the dead of the night to discover the mess that the company is in, and soon Sam begins to comprehend how ominously the end of the party on America’s financial district had crept upon his firm. 

Flying into damage control mode, the CEO of the company John Tuld (Irons) holds a high-level midnight meeting, attempting to address the crisis. The rest of the film deals with how the bankers go for broke, throw caution to the wind, and use every dirty trick available in the book to clear their names. The top brass even finds a fall girl to shoulder the blame of snowballing the biggest financial crisis of the millennium, with an assurance of hefty severance packages. It takes a while for viewers to get a hang of where the film is headed, but once they do, it’s a cracker-jack of a ride. Consider this your essential weekend watch.


Title: Margin Call (2011)

Synopsis: The lives of the employees of an investment bank begin to unravel over 24 hours during the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis.

Director: JC Chandor

CAST: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore Stanley Tucci

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