Rental Pick: Arbitrage (2012)

ArbitragePoster

It’s been a while since I saw Richard Gere in anything. It must’ve been a good five years or so. Well, it’s nice to see him in a meaty role that proves he’s got the dramatic chops to go with his good looks. At 63, he’s still quite a looker. Even paired with someone half his age, he somehow makes it look far less creepy than it could’ve been.

Gere plays Robert Miller, a multi-billionaire who seems to have it all. He has a successful career and a beautiful wife. He’s about to sell the seemingly profitable hedge fund he’s been managing with his daughter for a boatload of money. But of course, within minutes of the film’s opening we realize that Mr. Miller is in over his head, financially AND personally. I don’t know how this guy sleeps at night with all the lies he’s trying to cover up from everyone, especially those close to him.

One night, a tragic accident that kills his mistress propels his situation from bad to worse. Robert then turns to an unlikely person for help, which gets him even deeper into the rabbit hole, though it’s all his own doing. What I like about this film is the in-depth character study of about a person we could totally see happening in real life. Robert is not some fantastical character, there’s a ring of truth that made me think it could’ve been based on a real person. The kind of decisions he makes throughout the film reveals so much about his character and the film becomes an intriguing morality tale.

Richard Gere is in top form here, he certainly has the elite look and gravitas that makes him perfectly suited for a person of power. But he also displays a fine layer of vulnerability here that makes us still sympathize with Robert despite all the VERY bad things he’s done in his life. At times the film feels like a procedural drama when Robert is being investigated by a resolute detective Bryer (Tim Roth), but overall the film never loses its focus.

Arbitrage_Stills

The supporting cast is superb all around. I like Brit Marling‘s understated performance in After Earth, but here she proves her versatility as an actress. There’s an explosive scene between her and Gere that’s quite thrilling to watch. Nate Parker and French model/actress Laetitia Casta have small but very crucial roles here, and both of them did a decent job. Last but not least, Susan Sarandon once again lends a memorable performance as Gere’s loyal wife. Like Gere, the 66-year old actress still looks luminous for her age, and still has the sex appeal to hold her own against even a former Victoria’s Secret model!

Though some of the financial/investment jargon at times got lost on me, the film manages to keep me engaged from start to finish. The plot is complex enough where I didn’t see the twists from miles away, and that finale at a banquet in his honor is pretty darn satisfying. Kudos to Nicholas Jarecki who wrote and directed his debut film with such an adept hand, he’s definitely a newbie filmmaker to watch for. This film proves that you don’t need bombastic shoot outs or crazy car chases to create genuine tension.

Final Thoughts: I LOVE cerebral thrillers like this that blends mystery and morality tale, more of a slow burn but it really makes an impact when the time is right. The real thrill here isn’t the special effects or clever camera work, but more in the taut script and performances. Though the film is aesthetically-shot and full of beautiful people, the story still takes center stage and that to me, is the beauty of this film.


4.5 out of 5 reels

Have you seen Arbitrage? Well, what did you think?