I’ve been a Richard Gere fan for as long as I can remember, it was my mother who introduced me to him, as he is her favourite actor. I’ve always thought he was great, and even better in films that really provided a challenge. Arbitrage contains a very challenging role in Robert Miller, and Gere honestly owns this role and it may well be one of his best performances. This is rather different, and the film itself contains many strong performances but his leads them and in turn this becomes a very engaging and intriguing film.
Our story here feels rather relevant to today, with the financial crisis still rocking a lot of people around the globe. Our film focuses on Robert Miller (Richard Gere); a hedge fund magnate whose business is on the rocks, he has committed fraud in order to secure a sale. His family also have a stake in the business, which he has lied to them about. On the side he has a mistress Julie (Laetitia Casta), and much like his business life his personal one is about to take a huge hit and lies and fraud are all he has to keep his life secure.
This is the feature film debut for writer/director Nicholas Jarecki; his previous credits include short film The Weight and documentary The Informers. Here he shows such great talent for building up a complex film that isn’t actually difficult to follow with fantastically written dialogue that flows well. He also hit the jackpot with Gere, who makes a rather unlikable character extremely engaging, which is really challenging for the audience.
This is not an easy sell for a film, but with such talents involved and the way it unfolds, the sell is not all that difficult. This is an intense experience, where we are not sure we want to be on the side of Miller, yet with the way the police work we don’t entirely trust them either. We watch someone we know is guilty, get away with his crimes but he is not going to get away with his secrets remaining hidden. The film builds up a house of cards, and then it blows them down.
The performances here as I mentioned are extremely strong, especially with Richard Gere. He shows just how versatile of an actor he is, yes he has played business men before but each time he is very different and Miller is unlike anything he has played before. I was extremely impressed with how he handled himself in each situation, and how he did keep Miller an engaging character. He is the star of the show, but his co-stars do get their time to shine through. Susan Sarandon plays his wife Ellen and the few scenes they do share together are simply electric. These two actors have fantastic chemistry together and it was a perfect fit for this film. Tim Roth was a nice addition as Detective Bryer, a bit of a slimy character that doesn’t really come off as someone we can root for even though he is correct in his accusations. Brit Marling was great as the daughter Brooke, who has a stake in the business and a very complicated relationship with her father. She brought a lot to her scenes, especially a very tense one with Gere where the two played off each other well. Laetitia Casta was solid as the mistress Julie, a very cold performance that seemed to fit really well.
Nicholas Jarecki has given us a very unique film, a familiar story maybe but a very different execution. He has shown a lot of talent here, and if he plays his cards right he’ll have a bright future in the business. I was very impressed with Arbitrage, I went into this for the Gere factor as I am sure most would be, and I came out having seen a fantastic film. It met my small expectations and then exceeded them, Arbitrage is a film worth seeing, it is impressive and a very interesting ride.