A fascinating look at the high-speed, high-power trading floor of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc.
Director Jon Else explores this hectic, noisy, seemingly chaotic workplace with his signature style -- eschewing narration in favor of long, real-time shots that bring the viewer right into the heart-stopping action of the trading floor. He reveals the traders' sudden wealth, sudden disaster, and grace under pressure as they exchange billions of dollars in futures and options contracts - for cattle, pork bellies, Eurodollars and the Nasdaq-100 futures. Also revealed is the endangerment of the open outcry trading system as the digital revolution replaces it at many of the world's financial exchanges.
The film exposes nervous young clerks as they learn the open outcry system, its seemingly senseless language and hand signals. In the live cattle-trading pit, a seasoned broker explains how futures trading works: "If you go to McDonald's, your cheeseburger, I probably traded it, maybe 20 times. McDonald's starts hedging their cattle prices six months or more before they actually are going to use it...if we weren't around, your Big Mac would cost a dollar today, three dollars tomorrow, 50 cents next week and I don't think that's in the best interest of most of the people."
Traders ruminate on social values, market volatility and greed. One trader reminds us that commodities trading is not a pursuit for cold-hearted capitalists but, as we see in the film, for people with a gambler's heart and a gambler's nerves of steel: "Remember, when people hear about all the money commodity traders make, for every one guy that's made a fortune, I guarantee you that there are five guys that are driving cabs."
Else's film captures the exhilarating, heart-stopping volatility that makes the Merc one of the most fascinating spots on the global financial map.