We're all overlevered: Margin Call

I saw Margin Call last weekend.  I like the idea of making a bad day at work into a movie, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

It won't teach anything substantive about how the financial meltdown occurred, but it will show you how individual decisions went to make it up.

Oh, I don't mean the decisions about how to design the financial model you use to calculate your risk exposure, though decisions are certainly there. I mean the personal decisions the individual characters make about how to live their own lives.

In the movie, no one is free to act. No one can say "I'm out of here", or blow the whistle, or even openly resist. Because everyone, with the possible exception of the young former-rocket-scientist whiz kid Peter, has borrowed too much money or made other bad decisions.  Eric Dale, the ex-engineer character played by Stanley Tucci, at first stands strong, but finally caves because he just bought a house that he can no longer afford. Kevin Spacey's Sam Rogers seems to have just come out of an expensive divorce. Paul Bettany's Will Emerson spends $76,000 annually on high-priced hookers.

Or at least, they tell themselves they are not free to act. To act freely they would have to give up things they have gotten used to.  Once you've tasted that life, you can't go back, even if that taste was paid for by money you did not, in fact, have. A Stoic would tell you not to get attached to anything that can be taken away from you. Stoicism is an impossible ideal, but I am a bit surprised that no one is currently promulgating a version updated to reflect our current situation.

In the end, two characters sit in a room, doing nothing, waiting for the only thing that's worth anything anymore: a golden parachute.  A person's worth is just the value of his severance package.

The movie's power comes from not condemning this or underlining it. It just shows it to us, and defies us to think that we would somehow behave differently under the same circumstances.