Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth
You may like this if you liked: Margin Call (J.C. Chandor, 2011), Contraband (Baltasar Kormákur, 2012), Broken City (Allen Hughes, 2013)
Robert Miller (Gere) is a multi millionaire married hedge-funder whose life seems perfect. However, beneath the surface lie dark secrets. He has had to commit fraudulent dealings in order to try and sell his ailing company and is also having an affair with a younger business client (Laetitia Casta). Due to a tragic turn of events he is forced to take increasingly drastic action to prevent those around him including his wife (Sarandon) and daughter (Brit Marling), as well as a suspicious cop (Roth) from uncovering his secrets and destroying everything he has achieved as well as his reputation.
Richard Gere has not done a decent film for a while (Movie 43 anyone?), however he is perfectly suited for the lead role in what I thought was a slickly made, extremely watchable and enjoyable morality tale. Though perhaps it is a slightly formulaic plot there are enough decent twists and turns to keep it plodding along nicely.
Despite Miller in theory not being a particularly likeable character in isolation, Gere’s natural charm and charisma, as well as a committed turn add depth and make him genuinely compelling. I did not necessarily want him to pull through and come out smelling of roses, but was compelled as to how he was going to go about it. It is more the characters around him that are innocently being taking down with Miller that we care about. His wife, daughter and Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker) who is the down-on-his-luck son of a former late colleague all get innocently dragged into Miller’s web of deceit and it threatens to ruin their lives too. One of the motivations behind Miller’s actions is to prevent this from happening to those around him and for me this was one of the reasons he remained.
The supporting cast predominantly give great turns. Sarandon and Roth both give subtle, effective and seemingly effortless authority to their roles. However the one disappointment for me was Brit Marling; in what is a pivotal role within the narrative she fails to inject any life into a very important character. Her performance is very flat and wooden, and does definitely harm the film’s overall involvement and edge.
Whereas some films may start off with intrigue and gradually peter out; Arbitrage remains consistent throughout. However consistent in that it plods along nicely but yet never truly grips or intrigues which for me stops this from being anymore than a 6/10. Though this serves well as an allegorical piece, it scratches the surface but could have dug deeper at times. To this films credit is that I found the ending impressive. It thankfully avoids clunky clichés or stupidly dramatic violent scenes for an ending that is subtle, surprising and appropriate to the overall tone.
Arbitrage is a very well made and predominantly well acted thriller that entertains throughout. Though always watchable but never truly gripping, there are enough twists and a well written ending to keep things ticking over nicely.