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USA 2011
Directed by
Nicholas Jarecki
100 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

Arbitrage

Synopsis: Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is a suave and wealthy married 60-year-old who seems to have it all. But on the eve of selling his company “irregularities” in his books are uncovered. To add to his woes, a catastrophic accident involving him and his mistress threatens to blow open the entire fabric of his life. With NYPD Det. Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) on his trail, it remains to be seen how much immunity money can buy.

Aside from a couple of plot holes that troubled me, Arbitrage is a terrifically entertaining film on many levels. Firstly it is smartly scripted by the director, making his debut feature, in a way that doesn’t allow financial jargon to overwhelm the human interest and narrative tension of the story.  It is elegantly shot but best of all it has a strong cast whose characters’ motivations are convincingly portrayed throughout.

When we first meet Robert he appears to be an ideal male – considerate, in control of the world – and a real family man under the business suit. He heads home for his 60th birthday celebration and delivers a heartfelt speech to his extended family. Women in the audience may think, “Where do I find a guy like him?” But like all illusions this one is shattered as we progressively learn the extent of his duplicity, both on a personal level and in regard to fraudulent activities involving a failed investment. 

As the plot thickens, tensions escalate from scene to scene. becoming intensely fraught. To add to everyone’s woes, Det. Bryer is like a dog with a bone, perhaps harbouring some personal eat-the-rich grievance that inspires him to want to bring the seemingly untouchable billionaire to his knees.

Gere gives one of the best performances I’ve seen from him. He walks a fine line between Miller the paternalistic boss and caring husband and Miller the self-seeking hypocrite. It’s a joy to see British actor Roth back on the screen and after an extended run in the Lie To Me teleseries, his American persona and accent are note perfect. Brit Marling shines as the daughter who must discover some ugly truths about her adored father and find her own feet. Personal agendas are central to all the characters and even the slighted wife (Susan Sarandon) will play a trump card to get what she ultimately wants. In this world, where money rules, everyone is a user. But whether for good or bad is not entirely clear.

It is this ambiguity that distinguishes Arbitrage from recent films also dealing with corporate greed such as Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) and Margin Call (2011) and which makes it a much more personal affair.

 

 

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