Like any tragedy, when a risque joke is told or a movie made of the events, people ask “was it too soon?”

One could argue in this case, perhaps not soon enough.

As viewers, we are thrown into the dealing room of a fictional Wall Street trading firm. Severance staff are searching the building for fresh meat to throw to the wolves, it’s corporate downsizing time and there is much blood on the carpet.

One such victim is Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) a Risk Manager, which in many corporations was an endangered species. With much money to be made, assessing risks and acting as the curb on lending, trading positions or leveraging excesses, was the equivalent of being the safety officer on the Titanic.

As he leaves the building carrying boxes, server access cut, phone disconnected, Eric passes on some unfinished work he has unsuccessfully escalated upwards, to his junior associate.

Have a look he states but be careful.

Peter (Quinto) a rocket Scientist by training, slumming it for the money on Wall Steet, “It’s just figures”, crunches the numbers and wonders what all the red means. Thinking that if the models are correct, the firm is massively exposed, as in more money owed than the firm is worth. Calling in the big guns we have a well played hierarchical escalation, until choppers are heard on the roof and the man earning the real money, $76 million last year, arrives.

When you are left holding junk, what do you do? Bonds made up of useless mortgaes, sold to people with no credit rating, who cannot pay for them, repackaged and renamed to make them appear shiny and new but worthless all the same.

John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) is the man choppering in from the Hampton’s. He did not get to be a Billionaire by playing nice, he knows he can sell these bonds. There is always someone to sell them to, only once perhaps but that’s all he needs.

Realising the music has stopped, there are few chairs left, he intends to grab the first one available.

This is a film about corporate greed, be first, be smart or cheat. If cheating is not an option, be first. Don’t get caught by the impending Tsunami, cause it in the first place, there will be money to be made selling boats to those in the water, you can be sure of that.

A very interesting film, fiction but only just. Painting the characters not as villains, just doing what they have always done, stiffing the opposition and the little folk to make money. Just this time on a grander scale and with more forethought and intent. Unethical, wrong, one could argue no more than usual but carried out in daylight for everyone to see.

There are some great lines here, Sam (Kevin Spacey) is asked by the young protege. “Is this right?”, “for who” is the reply.

Paul Bettany as chief trader gets a good speech which in summary asks the question, are we all complicit in this deceit. Are we happy to live our over borrowed, over extended lives and allow banks to create this illusion that we are all “rich” and yet blame them when reality intrudes and the house of cards comes tumbling down.

Irons, Demi Moore and Simon Baker all add to a quality cast, the story has enough detail to intimate what is happening, using the young characters as the audiences guide. Therefore no knowledge of high finance is really required. Don’t worry, most of the senior staff working in these firms didn’t know how it all works either. As long as the money kept rolling in, they could employ rocket scientists to work out the tricky stuff.

Good acting, a great story torn from the headlines, played out over just one 24 hour period. There is not a lot to dislike. It is mainly office bound, there is perhaps more F Bombs than is completely necessary but the reality is, this is what it would be like. Careers on the line and ultimately given the choice, would you take the $1.3 million or stand on your principles. After all, what is the going rate for principles when the mortgage falls due?

As Irons preaches, the ratio of “have’s and have not’s” always remains the same, there is just more of both now.

A salutatory lesson for all concerned, well directed, well told and very accessible. If you thought that finance companies were looking after your money and not themselves, you would be very wrong indeed.


A complex, intelligent but easy to follow finance thriller. Fiction but based very much on the recent catalyst for the world economic downturn.

With a subject matter that ultimately impacts all our daily lives, this is guaranteed to be ignored at the Box Office but comes highly recommended nonetheless.