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Ambulance
Ten, 7.30pm

This compelling BBC series about the London Ambulance Service joins an already vast list of observational documentaries about emergency services, but what makes it stand out is the level of detail and the unflinching acknowledgment of the ramifications. "Seconds feel like minutes, minutes feel like hours," says an operator as 999 calls come in – 386 ambulance crews have to cover approximately 5000 calls in a day, and the prioritisation of calls, not all of which are responded to, is just the first of many difficult decisions. Maps chart the progress of ambulances through London's traffic and failure is a very real option, with one crew spending 45 minutes trying to revive a cardiac arrest sufferer to no avail as his sister watches on. A conscious gunshot victim is rushed to hospital and paramedics reflect on their personal philosophies, allowing Ambulance to document life and death from multiple angles. CM

Margin Call (2011)

Eureka, starring Gene Hackman.

Photo: Kerrie O'Brien

SBS Viceland, 8.30pm

During the American sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007-09, investment banks went into freefall and untold thousands lost their homes, jobs and futures. The banks were bailed out by governments using taxpayers' money, but individuals were not. Novelist Dana Vachon predicted chaos like this in his 2007 book Mergers & Acquisitions, but American cinema generally dragged its feet for a few years, until, most notably, J. C. Chandor's Margin Call (2011). It is a rivetingly honest and knowingly insider exploration of Wall Street capitalism, with everyone seemingly complicit in some way. (Chandor's father worked at Merrill Lynch for 30 years). As chief executive John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) exclaims: "It's just money, it's made up – pieces of paper with pictures on it so we don't have to kill each other just to get something to eat." This is a remarkable first film from Chandor, with truly claustrophobic tension. You won't see a better-acted film or a more eloquent one. SM

Jeremy Irons stars in Margin Call.

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