Director: Nicholas Jarecki (‘The Outsider’)
Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker (‘Red Tails’), Tim Roth (‘Pulp Fiction’) and Brit Marling (‘Another Earth’)
Many people who come from humble beginnings have the drive to do whatever it takes to financially succeed in life, no matter what it takes to get there. Such is the case with the main character of the new drama thriller ‘Arbitrage,’ Robert Miller, a charming, self-made billionaire, who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. While Robert is a respectable businessman who will do whatever it takes to provide for his family, he becomes an unfortunate product and victim of the 2008 stock market crash. He’s led to commit unimaginable, illegal and unmoral acts in order to protect his loved ones and save his cherished company.
‘Arbitrage’ follows Robert (played by Richard Gere), a New York hedge-fund magnate, who seems to be the very portrait of success with his business and family as he nears his 60th birthday. But Robert is secretly in over his head at work, as he desperately tries to complete the sale of his trading empire to a major bank before his fraud is revealed. He struggles to keep his deception from his loyal wife of 30 years, Ellen (portrayed by Susan Sarandon), and heir-apparent daughter Brooke (played by Brit Marling).
While trying to sell his business, Robert is also secretly balancing his affair with French art-dealer Julie Cote (played by Laetitia Casta) and an unexpected personal tragedy, with the aid of Jimmy Grant (portrayed by Nate Parker), a person from his past. The involvement of the economically depressed Jimmy, who is currently on parole, ignites the suspicions of NYPD Detective Michael Bryer (played by Tim Roth), who will stop at nothing to arrest and convict both Jimmy and Robert. Living on borrowed time, Robert is forced to confront the limits of his own moral and legal betrayals and wrongs.
Nicholas Jarecki, who made his feature film directorial and writing debut with ‘Arbitrage,’ created an exciting crime thriller that continuously ponders the moral and legal dilemmas powerful businessmen like Robert become entangled in. The movie also provides non-stop action and questions of whether the full extent of Robert and Jimmy’s unexpected conspiracy together will come to the attention of the police and their families. At the same time, ‘Arbitrage’ also offers viewers an entertaining look into a higher-class crime-driven world that hasn’t been realistically and thoroughly filmed before. With Robert, Jimmy and the seemingly innocent bystanders the two encounter during the course of the film, Jarecki conveyed the true personalities and characteristics of the people who truly make up the financial world.
Jarecki also naturally created a deceitful main character with Robert, who came under intense public and personal scrutiny after the 2008 economic collapse. The filmmaker, who was a successful business owner before he started making movies, and is the son of two commodities traders, cleverly made Richard appear as though he’s still the same respectable and morally admirable now as when he started his professional life over 30 years before. But as the crime thriller unfolds, Jarecki proved how complicated and corrupt a seemingly reputable man like Robert can become. He committed whatever ethically and legally questionable actions he deemed necessary to prevent Ellen, Brooke and his colleagues from finding out about his affair with Julie and the fraud he knowingly perpetrated in his company.
Gere was the perfect choice to play Robert, as he was charming on the service, but also wasn’t afraid to also play up the moral ambiguity and deceit the hedge-fund magnate needed to embrace in order to protect his family and company. While it’s evident he truly cares for Ellen and Brooke, he learns to overcome his internal struggles and live outside conventional morality, as he more fully embraces his affair with Julie. He also learns to justify running a Ponzi scheme through his company, despite living on borrowed time, as he convinces himself he started it to protect his family.
Despite Robert’s legally and morally questionable decisions, he remains likeable and relatable throughout the course of ‘Arbitrage,’ as he never fully becoming a true villain. Jarecki skillfully sets up Michael to become more of an antagonist throughout the course of the film, as he will do whatever it takes to prove Richard and Jimmy’s guilt in a series of crimes, even if he has to falsify evidence. Even with the mistakes Robert has made, his charming nature and the brutal force of the police leave him as a sympathetic protagonist who understandably breaks the law to get what he wants and needs. All of the actions Robert takes comes from his sense of obligation and responsibility to correcting the wrongs he’s committed in his life.
While Ellen serves as more of a supporting character to Richard in ‘Arbitrage,’ Sarandon perfectly gave her an emotional depth and vulnerability that led to her feeling hurt and betrayed as she starts to fully uncover her husband’s secrets. While it’s easy to question how Ellen didn’t already know about Richard’s numerous indiscretions during their 30-year marriage, she still exudes a real pain when she starts to fully understand the full extent of her husband’s personal and professional deceit. Ellen would do anything to protect her daughter as a result, and her actions are shockingly revealed when she truly comes to realize what Richard has been involved in over the course of the movie.
Jarecki took extreme risks that admirably pay off throughout the entire plot-line of ‘Arbitrage.’ Robert is a truly unforgettable, manipulative character who has the ability to control every situation, not just because of his power and money, but also with the help of his intelligence and the ability to read people in every situation. Gere allows viewers to constantly empathize with his character, as all of his illegal and immoral actions are just clever maneuvers to save his company and family. With the entire Miller family truly wanting to help their loved ones and the greater good while embarking on morally and legally questionable endeavors to ensure their continued financial success, the family provides a daring and accurate look into the financial world.
Written by: Karen Benardello