“Arbitrage,” written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki, 107 minutes, rated R.
Appearance is the name of the game in “Arbitrage,” a financial thriller from Nicholas Jarecki that also serves as a character study of a hedge fund mogul whose deceptions, both personally and professionally, become so deep that they spin his life out of control.
The Robert Miller (Richard Gere) that we meet is a successful businessman who has built an empire. He’s a family man who values his wife (Susan Sarandon), and his children Jake (Austin Lysy) and Brooke (Brit Marling), the latter of whom he’s made a close working partner.
But we come to find that’s just the side of himself that Miller projects. In fact, the tycoon has committed fraud to fill a sizable hole in his finances, so that he can save face for his business, and close a deal for its acquisition. He’s also been having an affair with a young artist named Julie (Laetitia Casta), which comes to an end one fateful night when Miller falls asleep at the wheel and kills his mistress. He flees the scene, again to save face.
As Miller becomes the primary suspect of Detective Bryer (an outstanding Tim Roth) in the investigation of Julie’s death, Miller covers his lies with more lies, burying himself, and others, in his falsehoods. But Detective Bryer’s not the only one on Miller’s heels, as Brooke begins to see the gaps in Miller’s bookkeeping.
Miller is a risk taker who is never satisfied with what he has, from his wife to his financial position. In many ways, he represents those fine folks who brought us the 2008 financial crisis, but in a much less direct way than portrayals in movies such as 2011’s “Margin Call,” or any number of documentaries detailing the meltdown. Gere is just right here – a perfect fit to play a man who is so immoral, yet has the gift of persuasion.
Here’s a man who’s guilty of his crimes. He has been dishonest with everyone in his life, from the police and business partners to his own family. But, he’s rich. He’s powerful. He’s charming when he wants to be, and vicious when he has to be. Miller’s actions are detestable, and although we don’t root for him, we never quite think of him as a villain either. That’s the power of Gere’s performance.
Around the chaos of Miller’s life, Jarecki creates a tight, intelligent thriller that never stretches too far for any twists, or in its plausibility. What lies in store for Miller is constantly in question, and it’s what ultimately drives “Arbitrage.” Will justice find Robert Miller?
“Arbitrage” is currently playing at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.