Arbitrage is as thrilling as it is intriguing, but would it play out better as a TV series than a film?
Arbitrage had to easily be one of the sleeper hits of the post-Oscar buzz. It received little to no press coverage anywhere in the media, specifically here in the UK. The strangest thing about this move by the producers and the distributor, Lionsgate, is that the film is a riveting and a delightfully gritty piece of drama. The film stars Richard Gere in the film's main role as hedge fund manager and general big New York CEO, Robert Miller. It's a fantastic debut from 33 year old director Nicholas Jarecki, who's direction, along with a stellar ensemble cast has created an off the radar, perplexing watch.
The film revolves around Miller's life, at first seeming idealistic with a loving wife (Susan Sarandon) and family, and a beautiful New York home. His company appears to be recession proof as he attempts to sell it for a huge profit. However, there is a sleazy underbelly to his cushy job and home life, as it is revealed he is having an affair with a French artist. They decide to go away together but after Robert falls asleep driving, the couple crash, leaving his mistress dead.
Robert, scared of not only a jail sentence but plummeting his company into the depths of bankruptcy, flees the crime scene. Yet some are already suspicious of Miller, and they have reason to be. Miller had changed the companies accounts to maximize profit, unbeknownst to his daughter, Brooke (Brit Marling) who works for the firm. Police detective Bryer (Tim Roth) suspects Miller after investigating the crime scene, the weary detective wants to take down a true fat cat. The storie's finale is a story of corruption, betrayal and intense drama.
Arbitrage is the debut full length movie of former teen computer hacker Nicholas Jarecki, and if this is anything to go by expect big things from this young up and comer. His direction shows maturity, experience and elegance, as well as a brilliant energy. His script is classy and well worked while the whole movie is ideally paced, Jarecki does well to keep the film's length down, never getting to tangled in his own web, it is an intelligent piece of cinema.
Jarecki also gets the most of out Richard Gere. This is the best acting I've seen from the Chicago actor in years. It's been a lack lustre decade for the 63 year old, but Arbitrage is surely a career best performance from him. He exudes confidence, arrogance and a certain charm that still despite the betrayal, the affair, the man slaughter, you find Miller oddly likeable by the end. He does a wolf in sheep's clothing almost charismatically.
Susan Sarandon, who plays his wife, Ellen, has a generally small part, odd considering the weight of her character in the plot. She does well with what she has, at first appearing the matriarchal head of the family in the constant absence of Robert, but in the end proving just as deceitful as her partner. It's a lovely little twist in the story, the naive and unassuming wife turned blackmailing snake.
The young Brit Marling does a superb job of playing Miller's daughter, Brooke. Again much like Sarandon's Ellen, she too is naive, being brought up with wealth and going straight into a job at her Father's firm, she is totally unaware of the backstabbing, the cover ups and the fraud going on at the company. Her innocence and subsequent detective like work to prove her Father's dirty work makes her instantly likeable. Brit is definitely an actress to look out for in 2013, as she is soon to be starring opposite Ellen Page in thriller movie, The East. Tim Roth has a nice turn as corrupt cop, Detective Bryer, playing with a jaded and rugged quality I haven't seen from the Rob Roy actor since the 90s.
However, despite it being a thrilling gem of a movie, I can't help but feel Arbitrage would play out so much better as a TV miniseries. There is so much to explore, not just in Robert Miller's character, but Tim Roth's Bryer, Marling's Brooke and Nate Parker's Jimmy Grant. A TV series would not only allow this but we could see events leading up to the pivotal countryside car crash, the reasons behind Miller's decision to cook his companies books, as well as the aftermath. The film ends very suddenly, which is to the stories advantage, but ultimately it would be nice to see beyond that final scene. What will happen to Robert and Ellen? What happens in the aftermath of the selling of Robert's film? It has so much potential.
Arbitrage is a gritty piece of cinema, full of double crossing, dishonesty and deception, which ultimately leaves no character free of sin. Richard Gere is superb, and this under rated film is one to see now during the current lull of decent films at the cinema. Brit Marling's Brooke is the plot's one glimmer of hope, but the depth of corruption is what makes this movie so intriguing. 3.5/5