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Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: The best movies about business

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Do the machinations of high level corporations make for good movies? Blogger Dominic Corry investigates.

Kevin Spacey in Margin Call.  Photo / Supplied
Kevin Spacey in Margin Call. Photo / Supplied

This week sees the release of Margin Call, a dramatisation of the events that lead up to the recent financial crisis set inside a large investment firm.

The new Star Trek's Spock, Zachary Quinto, produced and stars in the film, which features a very solid ensemble in the form of Kevin Spacey (See No Evil, Hear No Evil), Jeremy Irons (Dungeons & Dragons), Stanley Tucci (Big Night), Simon Baker (TV's The Mentalist) and Paul Bettany (Firewall).

It's a generally engrossing movie that does an admirable job of turning its potentially dry subject matter into thrilling drama.

There are many films which have big corporations driving all manner of plot developments, but there are far less which try to tell a story from inside a corporation and attempt to humanize the players in the business world.

It got me thinking: Do the machinations of high level corporations make for good movies?

The big daddy of this genre is of course Oliver Stone's 1987 classic Wall Street, which takes a clear moral stance with an obvious bad guy in spinning an extremely entertaining story out of the corporate world.

2010's disappointing sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps presented an even more didactic spin on the subject matter, and failed to effectively factor in the complexity of the current financial quagmire.

It's not hard to see why these creative decisions were made - after all, what drama is there to be mined from the nuances of high-level corporate activities?

Margin Call proves there is plenty, and that film is pretty much entirely comprised of men in suits taking meetings.

The 2010 documentary Inside Job, which covers - in real world terms - a lot of the same material as Margin Call managed to be very watchable but plays like a tragedy. There's plenty of drama here, but boy is it a downer.

Similarly depressing (but not without a note of hope) is last year's The Company Men, starring Ben Affleck (Mallrats), Tommy Lee Jones (Rolling Thunder) and Kevin Costner (The Postman).

This film demonstrates once and for all that if you're going to take the nature of corporations seriously when making a movie, your audience will leave the theatre depressed.

Margin Call benefits from the mild distance we have from the 2008 financial crisis, but manages to make some grander points about ethics, ambition and human nature.

The 1992 adaptation of David Mamet's play Glengarry Glen Ross takes a more micro view of business (and specifically concerns itself with real estate), but also works as a metaphor for the corporate world.

It may be grim as all heck, but it's also darn entertaining.

The 2000 film Boiler Room, starring Giovannia Ribisi (The Mod Squad) and Vin Diesel (Babylon AD), attempted (reasonably successfully in my opinion) to transplant the tone of Glengarry Glen Ross to the share trading world.

Affleck even gives a speech evoking Alec Baldwin's legendary monologue in the earlier film.

I remember enjoying the 2009 downsizing-focused drama Up In The Air, starring George Clooney (Return of the Killer Tomatoes), but in the time since then, I have become increasingly embarrassed by this fact. In retrospect, the film seems mawkish and one-note.

Tonally, it's a world away from the above movies, but my absolute favourite corporation-centric film is the Coen brothers underrated 1994 masterpiece The Hudsucker Proxy, in which a small town dim-bulb (Erik The Viking's Tim Robbins) is placed in charge of a massive corporation in an attempt to drive the stock down. It is freaking awesome.

Documentarian Michael Moore mined much (sobering) humour out of corporate downsizing in his landmark 1988 film Roger & Me, while the 2003 doco The Corporation took an empowering approach that emotively charged its viewers to take action.

Martin Scorsese's recently announced film The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the memoir by Jordan Belfort, has all the ingredients to set a new standard for corporate dramas.

Leonardo DiCaprio (natch) will be playing Belfort, who rose to incredible heights trading in the '90s, but succumbed to hedonism and ended up in jail. Sounds great!

* What are your favourite movies about the corporate world? Does the topic interest you in movies? Comment below!

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