ARBITRAGE, the feature-directing debut of writer Nicholas Jarecki
, is a taut and alluring suspense thriller about love, loyalty, and high finance. Starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, and Brit Marling.
Soundtrack: Amazon MP3/CD
Official Website: http://www.arbitrage-film.com/
The beauty of writer/director Nicholas Jarecki's Arbitrage
is that it accomplishes the almost impossible - it gets you to sympathize with a corrupt, philandering, borderline sociopath; and you don't even feel that bad about it. The film brings us into the world of high finance in New York City right before the real estate bubble burst in 2008. Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, the sophisticated billionaire that seemingly has it all -- loving family, private jet, Manhattan townhouse, fantastic hair, etc. It's the kind of roll Gere could perform in his sleep (and he has), but he brings a refreshing vitality and vulnerability to it. It's easily his finest performance since the underrated The Mothman Prophecies
- oh yes, I went there.
It turns out all is, in fact, not well for Mr. Miller. He's been stealing from his clients to keep his business afloat and he needs to sell off his company quickly to avoid the wolves at his door. Even though this is the kind of story that's been told before, Jarecki presents it earnestly and realistically. It's not a Bernie Madoff biopic, or a sweeping tale of what went wrong during the financial crisis. Filming on a small budget, it was no doubt a challenge to present this "world of the billionaire," but scenes are filmed in some of New York's most privileged and iconic locales, and the viewer can really feel like they've entered that world.
Smartly, Jarecki doesn't over-complicate the plot with financial minutiae, because by now, we all know what happened and why. Instead, he focuses his lens on Miller, his family, and an important young man from his past that could hold the key to his future. Throughout the film we encounter believable characters that have depth and their dialogue rings true. It's really a story about the lengths a patriarch will go to in order to protect his family, and the price he may have to pay for those actions.
is a classic "walls are closing in" style thriller that has you biting your nails and twisting in your seat. It's not comfortable, but it is entertaining. One of Arbitrage
's most jarring scenes comes quite unexpectedly, and while it is slightly improbable, it adds a great twist to the overall plot. Jarecki builds the tension in a well-designed, slow-burn. Every viable option Miller has to get out from the hole he's dug himself into seems to disappear one by one. Until the end, Arbitrage
will keep you guessing about whether or not Miller can unweave his severely tangled web. And you may be surprised to find yourself rooting equally for his salvation and his comeuppance, because in the end, they might be one in the same.
In addition to the aforementioned Gere, Arbitrage
has a strong, likable cast. Susan Sarandon turns in an understated, yet layered performance as Mrs. Miller. We're never really sure how much she knows about her husband's illicit activities until the movie's climactic scene. Tim Roth plays Detective Bryer, the classic NYC cop with a chip on his shoulder, who's determined to take Miller down. Roth is always excellent, but his New York accent is a swing and a miss here. It sounds as if he's channeling a strange combination of Joey Tribiani and Woody Allen, which is as unsettling to watch as it sounds.
Two young actors, Brit Marling and Nate Parker, really shine in their roles. Parker (The Great Debaters
, The Secret Life of Bees
) plays Jimmy Grant, the young man who helps Miller out of a jam. He more than holds his own in several scenes with Gere and Roth and appears to be a star in the making. Marling (Another Earth
) plays Miller's dutiful daughter Brooke, and her character undergoes the most dramatic shift in the film, as she's forced to realize the truth about her dad.