Movie Mondays: Director J.C. Chandor and Money

~posted by Frank

Director J.C. Chandor has only made three films, but he has emerged as one of America’s most accomplished young directors. Two of his films are smart, thrilling, engaging dramas about money, and are ideal viewing during Money Smart Week.

His first movie, Margin Call (2011) is a fictional but all-too-real film about the 2008 financial crisis, told in the span of 24 hours. Eric (Stanley Tucci) is the head of risk management, and is laid off along with most of his staff; before he leaves, Eric gives risk analyst Peter (Zachary Quinto) a USB stick with data he was unable to finish working on. Peter completes what Eric started; within hours, Peter discovers that the firm’s portfolio is so volatile that it will lose a significant portion of its value, and the repercussions will not only devastate the firm, but the nation’s economy as well. A series of meetings up the chain of command (Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker, Demi Moore and Jeremy Irons) lead to a series of drastic steps that no one saw coming – or at least took seriously enough to consider. In addition to providing viewers with an accessible treatment of a complex issue like the financial crisis, it also humanizes all of the characters who grapple with the morality of what they’ve done and what they will do next.

Chandor’s most recent film, A Most Violent Yeardeals with a financial crisis of a more personal nature. Abel (Oscar Isaac) is living the American Dream – he’s an immigrant who is the owner of a heating oil company in New York City in 1981, one of the most dangerous years in the city’s modern history. Despite this success, his drivers are increasingly victimized by hijackers who take off with the truck’s valuable oil. Abel seeks to protect his company by buying an empty fuel terminal to import fuel directly and increase capacity, but after putting down a large down payment everything begins to fall apart. With the help of his lawyer (Albert Brooks) and his tough-as-nails wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), he searches for $1.5 million dollars to close the deal, and each transaction is more dangerous than the one before. And all the while he’s being investigated by the assistant district attorney (David Oyelowo). A Most Violent Year looks at the more personal side of money – and the things we may do to achieve the American Dream that we so richly deserve. Perhaps that’s what Margin Call is about as well. And that’s why J.C. Chandor is a already considered one of the best directors of his generation.

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