Director: Nicholas Jarecki
Starring: Richard Gere, Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Laetita Casta, Nate Parker
Written by: Nicholas Jarecki
Running Time: 107 mins
Release date: 1st March 2013
So you are looking at the titles of the latest releases, deciding what film to go and see. There’s a batch of new films that all look interesting, with their instant “does exactly what it says on the tin” name. I mean, you are hardly going to see Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and expect high art (or any form of quality, for that matter). Then you see the title, Arbitrage. What on earth is that? A foreign film with subtitles? A name of some horrific creature that comes from another planet? You probably will struggle to pronounce it, so, not wanting to look a fool at the box office, you decide to go for something that look remotely in English. Don’t be too hasty. Even though the title is tricky to get your tongue around, it is neither a horror or a subtitled gem but a small yet perfectly formed drama about a man’s uncontrollable spiral from the top to the bottom, and it has, at the centre, a brilliant performance from Richard Gere.
Robert Miller, it would seem, has everything: an impressively rich man with a doting wife, an intelligent daughter and a solidly educated son. He lives the life of a wealthy businessman, making the cover of Forbes magazine. Yet secretly, Miller is hiding several secrets. His company is short of millions and he is having to borrow money he can’t afford to keep the auditors happy in order for him to sell so he can get the money back. He is also having an affair with an art gallery owner. Things go from bad to worse when his daughter starts discovering the company’s book aren’t perfect and an accident leads Miller covering his tracks while a cop is gunning for him. The only person Miller can turn to for help is an ex-con.
It all might sound very contrived and complex for a simple Saturday night at the movies but, again, don’t turn your nose up. Yes, it is complicated and some of the terminology within the business world might be far too dazing for those who haven’t a clue, yet writer/director Nicholas Jarecki has sculptured a pretty decent crime thriller, as well as a solid drama about how the rich can manipulate almost everything. What makes the whole thing work is the casting of some of the best that cinema has to offer.
Leading the pack is Gere. Now in his sixties, he still has that boyish good looks that he carried off when he first started. Playing Miller, you should be as far detached as possible from him. He is not a good man. Yet Gere somehow manages to make him seem like an angel and you find yourself rooting for him. It is one of his finest hours and even though he wasn’t recognised at this year’s Oscars (although he did receive a Golden Globe nomination) I think it won’t be long before he is given a golden statue if he gets another part like this in the future.
Along side him is Tim Roth as the disgruntled cop who wants to bring Miller down. Roth has an ease about him and his screen presence here is pitch perfect. An almost grubby man compared to Gere’s smooth character, you wonder who is the villain and who is the hero. The scenes between the leads are breath-takingly good. Susan Sarandon, who never seems to age, is strong as Gere’s long-suffering wife while Brit Marling, so good in Sound of my Voice, proves she is an actress to watch as Miller’s daughter, Brooke.
This is one of those films that you know was made for awards in mind and yet was sorely ignored, for what ever reason. Yet this is a terrific film that moves along at a nice pace, never outstays it’s welcome and even if you get lost in the big business language, you can enjoy the performances at least. Bet you find yourself on Gere’s side too.
Oh, and as a footnote, Arbitrage means the simultaneous purchase and sale of an asset in order to profit from a difference in the price. Makes sense now.