Arbitrage, n.The simultaneous buying and selling of securities, currency or commodities in different markets.Exercise of individual judgment, authoritative decision or determination. arch.
He says it himself, “World events revolve around five things: M-O-N-E-Y.” For Robert Miller (Richard Gere), everything and everyone has a price. Arbitrage, written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki, introduces Miller amidst one illegal scandal and proceeds to thrust him into another — this one staring at him from the passenger seat with cold, dead eyes. But where is the line drawn for the rich and powerful? Where do their laws stop and ours begin? Is fraud too much? Is homicide? As money paves the way ahead of him, Miller strives to stay above the law and avoid the consequences of his actions, even when they are looking him dead in the face.
Robert Miller projects the ideal man of business: ruthless by day, loving family man by night. He is the loving father of two successful children; his son is set to lead his company and his daughter, Brooke (Brit Marling), is his partner in business whom he tries to shield from the reality of his dealings. Brooke, a surprisingly strong supporting character, helps represent the collision of Robert’s familial and business obligations. Ellen Miller (Susan Sarandon) delivers the most solid performance. Sarandon gives her character a depth that the other performers lack and, though granted unusually little screentime, she lifts her scenes above mediocrity. Robert, however, like any true movie-man-of-power, possesses the morality to fill a teaspoon and has an artist mistress, Julie Cote (Laetitia Casta).
The film, in its quest to expose the holes in the justice system, brings in Jimmy Grant (Nate Parker), to act as the crime foil to Miller. After falling asleep at the wheel and killing his mistress in a fatal crash, Miller calls Grant, completely ignorant of Miller’s crimes, for a ride in the middle of the night as a favor to an old friend. However, Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) brings a suit against Grant, a black man from Harlem, for obstruction of justice, for Miller is simply untouchable. The contrasting nature of the interviews of Miller and Grant call to mind the injustice of stereotyping and what money can truly buy. For the majority of the film, the law enforcement agencies are completely aware of Miller’s role in the crime; however, they have to dig him out of his pit of money and power to even begin to touch him.
Gere as Miller was a surprising disappointment. Suave and charming, Gere has set a standard that even he himself could not reach in this film. Gere seems to miss a large element of the character he portrays; perhaps it is the pure joy in cheating the system that Michael Douglas gave us in Wall Street that we have come to expect. Here, the “silver fox” does not own his sinister character, nor does he lend any convincing pathos. It is simply an underwhelming performance.
The cinematography in this film, however, is beautiful. It is difficult to shoot a big city in a new way, but a single shot panning up a building shimmering with shifting light is still impossible to get out of my head. Subtle visual touches set the tone, like when Robert and Brooke walks in a park through a cloud of green, as we peer on voyeuristically from behind a tree. And while the artsy shots draw the eye, the use of sound finds new ways to play out seemingly straightforward scenes. While Miller consumes a late night drink, the noise of clinking ice is amplified noticeably, drawing attention to the absolute silence and boredom of his life at this point.
Arbitrage may not be everything we may have hoped, but director Jarecki is definitely one to keep an eye on and I for one, will be going to see his future films. Starting a career in the feature film industry alongside stars Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon needs someone with a new eye for a shot, and Jarecki provides just that. Arbitrage runs for only 100 minutes, yet sections seem to stretch on for eternity. It got to the point where my friend next to me jokingly whispered, “It’s Batman!” when Miller received a late night, raspy-voiced call. The film is an interesting and well-constructed look at the nature of crimes in high class Americans; however it is not one to capture and hold attention. If financial dramas are not your life blood, Arbitrage is not worth your time.