4

During the devastating events in Margin Call there is a conversation between Will and Eric Dale whom Will has come to convince into returning to the company after having previously been fired. Eric explains that he has once been an engineer and constructed a bridge, which he concludes, after a long chain of numbery explanations, has saved the people crossing it "1,531 years of their lives not wasted in a fucking car". This is surely meant as a statement that he once did something meaningful in his life and doesn't see much inclination to return to that supposedly less meaningful job from which he has been fired anyway.

But after that when it is clear that he won't return and Will is leaving for good, he responds with

Will: Well, you're a better man than me.
Eric: That's always been true.
Will: Yes, it has...House looks good. Don't beat yourself up too much about this stuff, right. Some people like driving the long way home. Who the fuck knows, right?

Now it might seem a rather marginal question, but I didn't really get what he wanted to say with this last part directly referencing Eric's bridge analogy. Seeing the importance of that bridge speech, there seems to be more to Will's response than just a throwaway line, but I can't really wrap my head around what exact statement it is he wanted to make with this response. Add to this that Eric indeed returned to the company (after they clarified the consequences regarding his gratuity and health insurance if he wouldn't, though).

3

Everyone always thinks they are on the good side or at least doing something neutral (and winning while doing it). That is a main topic of the movie and mentioned several times. Money is neutral; the people want it this way, even if they are complaining; they will only hang us if the system crashes, otherwise they take their share and nobody will be persecuted. There are decidedly no "evil" persons in the movie, up to the top management everyone seems to do a professional job and "just" trying to make money (even when the risk calculation go awry and chance hits or mistakes are made; they are human after all). "There are three ways to earn money: Be the first, be the best, or betray. And I don't betray."

So when Eric tells the bridge metaphor he tells Will that once in life he did something measurably, undoubtedly meaningful where the monetary work was just, well, for the money. This hurts Will who sees himself and his job as positive-neutral ("Money is just paper with faces so we don't kill each other when trading"). His snappy response for me was a way to level Eric's achievement with this. This aligns with typical business administration studies where you learn that monetary success is neutral so it is fine to maximize the gain and use it for whatever purpose you set yourself. This contrasts with Eric's engineering point of view where you can objectively measure a positive success. Will has power over Eric (health insurance, gratuity) so he shows his position by defining the ethics and degrading Eric's success.

If you like the long way home you can still take it, even with the bridge in existence.

I don't think it to be a coincidence that the other person who uncovers the problems isn't an economics graduate either but a "rocket scientist" (a specialised engineer turned broker for monetary reasons). It is a symbol that you need an outside view. Undoubtedly every professional could have calculated the business cases and risks correctly and discovered the mistakes, but in the movie the persons doing so are "externals". Both externals left their "meaningful" careers just for the money so this is a criticism in itself that a system can corrupt even if not a single person (in the movie) is evil or unprofessional. The catastrophe happened anyway.

Note: I saw the German dub only. The quotes may be a little off for that reason.

0

Some people like driving the long way home = It means some people like doing it the hard way even if it may hurt.

"In this movie" it shows that "Engineers turned financialists" are better than traditionally educated financialist with numbers and persevere to be more ethical. (proven by two characters "in this movie")

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