PLOT: Robert Miller is the ideal businessman. He is smart, savvy and ruthless when it comes to building his empire. Yet he is risking it all after losing millions of dollars in investment funds and lying about it in order to sell his business. He is even having an affair with a French art-dealer while his wife and family remain blind to his indiscretions. Soon however everything begins to collapse after a tragic accident. Desperate to not get caught up in an ugly scandal, he flees the wreckage hoping to erase any sign of his name from the possibly devastating results.
In the feature film directorial debut of writer Nicholas Jarecki, ARBITRAGE paints a picture of a beyond wealthy man whose life is about to fall apart. With his loving family and a successful business, it seems hedge-fund magnate Robert Miller (Richard Gere) has become just a little too greedy and desperate. Looking in from the outside, it appears that his world is unimaginably perfect. Yet it is the closer look that reveals his fraudulent business activity and even a long term affair with a French art-dealer Julie Cote (Laetitia Casta). While he has managed to balance under the weight of the lies, a tragic accident leaves him clinging desperately to his perfect world.
We are introduced into Millers world all glossy and outwardly perfect. He is an exceedingly wealthy and handsome gentleman with a beautiful wife (Susan Sarandon) and his two successful children Peter and Brooke (Austin Lysy and Brit Marling). Yet just beneath the surface we begin to see that not all is as it appears. Jarecki builds this house of cards effectively enough as we find that Miller is lying to auditors about his missing investment funds in order to sell the business without any complications. Much like his business, he is lying to his family about his affair. It all begins to fall apart after a tragic car accident which could force him to come clean about everything. Thankfully for him anyway this shrewd entrepreneur uses his resources to cover up any wrongdoing.
If it werent for Gere and his terrific portrayal of Miller, ARBITRAGE would be a hard sell. He is not a likable character - in fact he is pretty reprehensible. Yet the actor is able to somehow humanize him even when he is lying to all those around him. This includes his wife, his lover, his business associates and most importantly his daughter Brooke. Sadly, Marling is not the best choice and lacks the credibility needed for this strong willed young woman. Not surprisingly Sarandon is fantastic as the wife who may know more than she lets on, its just a shame that she is hardly utilized at all. When she is however, she is truly in command as the doting wife who is a little too smart to ask too many questions about her husbands extracurricular activities.
The film also stars Nate Parker as a former employees son who helps Miller in his time of need and Tim Roth as a detective investigating the accident. Both Parker and Roth are essentially the most accessible characters of the piece. Roths Det. Bryer hounds Miller, certain that he has something to hide. As for Parker, he takes on the role of Jimmy Grant, the one man here who seemingly has a soul. Frustratingly, it is Grant that is the most put upon when they are able to track down his car near and around the time of the accident. As much as it made sense why he was risking so much for Miller, you have to question why he didnt just listen to his wife at least she had the right idea.
What separates ARBITRAGE from other modern day suspense yarns is the focus on character as opposed to out and out thrills. While there is one intense moment that happens in the first half hour or so one which helps shape the plot the action lies in the circumstance and the pacing. If you are looking for a thriller with tons of chase sequences and quick cuts, youll likely be disappointed. However, those looking for a deftly told study of greed and how far it drives you will be plenty entertained.
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