Writer/director J.C. Chandor's directorial debut 'Margin Call' takes place at a financial firm in midtown Manhattan, far above the normal people whose money (and lives) the analysts and brokers affect with their every decision. Whether or not this firm is the first domino to fall in what would become the financial meltdown of 2008 is unclear, but the scent of change -- or is it blood? -- is in the air, as the movie opens with a series of ruthless layoffs.
As senior risk analyst Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) is escorted out of the building, his years at the firm reduced to a box of mementos, he thrusts a thumb drive at junior analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) and urges him to look at the data on there. There's something there, a problem that he's been working on, and it's bad news. He'd tried to warn others, but no one would listen, so it's probably no coincidence that it's now curtains for Eric and his career. What Peter finds later that night, after his coworkers and bosses leave to celebrate not being canned, is devastating data that indicates the coming collapse -- a discovery that sends his higher-ups into an all-night frenzy of meetings. What they decide could save their hides but send the stock market into a free fall, and each exec has their own angle on the matter.