Arbitrage (2012)

cxjjadh4Written and Directed by: Nicholas Jarecki

Billionaire Robert Miller (Richard Gere) has built a successful trading company and watched it flourish. He has his brilliant daughter Brooke (Brit Marling) working beside him and his lovely wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) handling the company’s philanthropic work.

Now Robert is in danger of having fraudulent business practices exposed and is anxious to sell his corporation before that happens. Then a tragic turn in his personal life puts him at the center of a criminal investigation.


I was a lot more impressed with this movie than I’d expected to be. Richard Gere was the penultimate cinematic crush of my adolescence. My best friend and I spent a lot of time at the theater around the time An American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman were released. And I am happy to see that, at 63, the man can still rock an illicit sex scene. Susan Sarandon is still looking smoking hot these days too. But I digress. Over the years, Gere’s performances have been hit or miss for me. But when he’s at the top of his game, he’s quite good, and this is one of the best performances I’ve seen from him.

Robert Miller is a despicable character. As a businessman, he has questionable scruples — he’s also a narcissist and an unrepentant adulterer — and his reactions to certain events are disconcertingly cold. Even when he’s expressing his love for his children, the tenderest part of almost anyone’s life, his words seem too glib and polished. I wasn’t worried about the prospect of his downfall — I was looking forward to seeing the gods smite this man for his hubris. 🙂


However, Gere portrayed him as a morally complex individual, with moments of genuine tenderness, fear, grief, and regret. I didn’t like this character, but I couldn’t dismiss him either. And I didn’t want to look away.

Furthermore, the movie stirred things up for me by introducing another character in dire straits — Jimmy (Nate Parker) — who I really did care about. I found him compelling as a confused young man caught up in his fear of seeing his future dissolve in front of him, a desire to honor the memory of his father, and loyalty to a man who helped his family at a time of need.


I was also excited to see Tim Roth as Michael Bryer, an angry police investigator determined to close in on his quarry. I loved watching that man conduct an interrogation. My biggest disappointment with this movie was that this character wasn’t developed a bit further. Roth gave a worthy performance, but his character didn’t seem as multidimensional as I’d expected.

This is a carefully crafted, plot driven thriller/drama that could easily have been glib and predictable. However the protagonist was sufficiently complex — and the plot offered enough twists — to keep me guessing. This movie offered an intriguing character study as well as an enjoyable, somewhat twisty ride.




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