The global financial crash of 2008 is brought vividly to life through the eyes of a group of Wall Street whizz kids when they realise their numbers are... down. Zachary Quinto plays the trading floor grunt who clocks that something isn't adding up while Kevin Spacey is the corporate veteran who has a crisis of conscience in an industry not renowned for its touchy-feeliness. Debut writer-director JC Chandor's enthralling drama paints an all-too-believable picture of a world where greed is genuinely regarded as good.
A survey recently discovered that grafters working in banking were among the most likely to suffer a heart attack.
Well, that's a bonus.
So finding the human face behind a trillion-dollar industry whose recklessness literally cost us all dear is like finding a financial consultant on skid row.
Writer-director JC Chandor, whose father worked for Merrill Lynch for almost forty years, has crafted a compelling drama chronicling a fictitious banking giant in the 24 hours before the cash crisis.
Zachary "the new Mr Spock" Quinto plays Peter, an eager young broker who survives a cull in which his boss Stanley Tucci is shown the door after nineteen years...but not before he discovers that the balance sheets don't add up.
Handed a USB stick as his mentor is being escorted off the premises, Peter discovers that the bank's toxic holdings could wipe out the company's worth overnight.
It's difficult to feel any sympathy with those who have callously drained the taxpayer only to reward themselves with bonuses for success that can more easily be linked to the vagaries of the market than any real talent. But Chandor almost manages it.
The real asset of a broker is not number-crunching but charm...and this lot have it in spades.
There's Spacey's industry veteran who's more concerned about his dying dog than the financial tailspin, Bettany's clinically ruthless trader and Demi Moore's ball-buster who's hung out to dry by her male counterparts.
It's a slick, well-made film about a catastrophic set of events that were catastrophic to everybody but those who actually caused them.