Everyone’s a cynic! Film, TV, music, books and art about pessimism

From Wall Street savagery to withering R&B, choose art that shows humanity at its most misanthropic

Taking place over one night in 2008, Margin Call is a taut display of sharp suits and sharper dialogue, in which the cantankerous colleagues at a Goldman Sachs stand-in have to decide between tanking their company or the world economy. It may lack the zany thrills of The Big Short, but by presenting the bankers as calculated insiders, its critique is altogether more damning. Against stiff competition, head trader Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) is the most cynical (and likable) when he itemises what he spends his enormous salary on to justify his callous choices. But it’s John Tuld (Jeremy Irons in a performance so charmingly evil as to rival his turn as Scar in The Lion King) who ultimately pulls the trigger, “so that we may survive!” Alex Mistlin

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