Be first. Be smarter. Or cheat.
Junior employees Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley) and Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) and senior trader Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) watch as a human resources team conducts mass layoffs on their trading floor. One of the fired employees is Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), who works in risk management. Before leaving, Dale gives Peter a USB drive with a project he had been working on, telling him to "be careful." That night, Peter finishes the project, and discovers that trading will soon exceed the historical volatility levels used by the firm to calculate risk. Because of overleverage, if the firm's assets (in mortgage backed securities) decrease by 25%, the firm will owe more than its market capitalization. Sullivan alerts Emerson, who calls head of trading Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey).The employees remain at the firm all night for a series of meetings with more senior executives, including Jared Cohen (Simon Baker) and head of risk Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore), and finally CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons). Tuld reveals that his plan is simply to sell off all of the toxic assets before the market can react to the news of their worthlessness, thereby limiting the firm's exposure. Rogers knows this will spread the risk throughout the financial sector and will destroy the firm's relationships with its counterparties, who will never trust them again. The characters finally locate Dale, who had been missing after his company phone was turned off. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Rogers, Robertson, Cohen, and Tuld were somewhat aware of the risks. Tuld plans to offer Robertson's resignation to the board and employees as a sacrificial lamb.Before the markets open, Rogers tells his traders they will receive seven figure bonuses if they achieve a 93% reduction in certain MBS asset classes. He admits that the traders are effectively destroying their own jobs and careers, severing relationships with their clients. Meanwhile, Robertson and Dale sit in an office, being paid handsomely to do nothing. Emerson manages to sell off his assets, but his counterparties become increasingly agitated and suspicious, and the day wears on. Having successfully reached the 93% benchmark, Rogers watches the same human resources team begin another round of layoffs on his floor. He confronts Tuld, who remarks that the current crisis is really no different from any other, and sharp gains and losses are simply part of the game. He wants Rogers to stay at the firm for another two years, stating that there will be a lot of money to be made from the coming crisis. Rogers sees Sullivan meeting with Cohen about his imminent promotion.In the final scene, Rogers digs a hole in his front yard to bury his dog who died of cancer in reference to Tuld's comment that he could have been digging holes for his life.
Score: 71 %