Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Margin Call: Engineers without Borders

by Drew Martin
I watched Margin Call yesterday, which is a film set in 2008 that dramatically summarizes the fall of the investment bank (a thinly guised Lehman Brothers) that triggered the financial crisis and led to our recent recession. Not only is the acting good but the hierarchy of the company is aligned with the quality of the acting: Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci.

Tucci plays the head of the firm’s risk management department, but is let go at the beginning of the film. He hands off a flash drive, with something he was working on, to a senior risk analyst, played by Zachary Quinto (the new Spock). Quinto’s work, based on Tucci’s calculations project the downfall of the company, and its snowball effect on the market. What is interesting is that both of these characters are former engineers. Quinto’s character was a mechanical engineer with an advanced degree in propulsion from MIT, and Tucci’s character was a civil engineer. While Quinto responds to a “rocket scientist” remark that engineering and finance are all about numbers, Tucci reflects on a bridge he “made” between Dilles Bottom, Ohio and Moundsville, West Virginia. He speaks about the positive effect the bridge had on the people who use it and runs through a series of calculations about how many miles and years of time he saved them from having to spend in their cars.

Pictured here is the Moundsville Bridge.

Click here to watch the trailer.

Click here to watch the scene about the bridge.