This is a compelling movie: 4/5 stars. The 'whys' are coming, but first I need to confess something.
I am a colossal ignoramus when it comes to finance and economics. It's not that I am dumb; it's more that my brain steadfastly resists information which it does not find immediately beneficial. This boils down to me being able to absorb movies and not news.
Movies are immediately beneficial.
Anyway, there is a point in the movie where the CEO of an investment banking firm asks a young analyst to explain their dire financial situation to him as though he were "a five year old or a golden retriever". Don't get your hopes up too much here. My golden retriever brain still did not get half of what he was saying. BUT, that did not make the movie any less compelling.
It's a taut story. The financial world is about to be turned on its over-inflated head. Fortunes will be lost, careers will be torched, lives will be ruined. And how long after the fuse is lit will the bomb explode? A matter of hours. Tick-tick-tick. As long as the director handles this right, it's gonna keep you tuned-in. He does and it does. Plus, it's a good-looking film: the sharp and shiny reflection of affluence.
It's got a big cast, lots of people you know. The opening scenes with Stanley Tucci (a favorite of mine) tell you right off the bat that this is gonna be a good flick. He's perfect, as you would expect, and the scenes are oddly relate-able (anyone else recently experience the sudden disappearance of your co-workers?). It's just even more sordid here---I guess you have to consider the source.
Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, Penn Badgley all give solid performances. Demi Moore is okay, like always. (Hey, I like her, but in my experience, her acting, while not bad, hasn't shown a whole lot of depth or nuance). Kevin Spacey is great, as always. Remember Verbal Kint/Keyser Soze? One of the all-time favorite performances, that one was. But I digress.
The surprise performance, for me, was by Zachary Qunito. Since I didn't see the new Star Trek films, I only know him from the tv series Heroes. This role is a big departure from that. He is very convincing, very believable---great expressiveness in his face, great line delivery.
Apparently there really are people whose lives are driven only by the need and desire for wealth. So, if you had a few minutes with these guys what would would you want to know?
How about: How does it feel to be a soulless bastard?