Arbitrage

Arbitrage

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Richard Gere is getting better with age. The lived-in look suits him and he holds this film tight, appearing in virtually every scene as family man, company boss and tragic 'hero' Robert Miller. You sense there was a time, long ago when Miller got things right, when life was good, money flowed and talking was straight. Those days are gone and he finds himself, as Macbeth once put it, “in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er.” And the big problem for Miller is not just that he needs to sell his company quick before financial problems come to light but that the blood he is stepped in is not just metaphorical.

Even cooking the books isn't that simple when the person supposedly keeping them squeaky clean is your daughter (Brit Marling). And when you've been married for as long as Miller has, it's tough to keep anything - including his infidelities with artist Julie (Laetitia Casta) - under wraps from your wife (Susan Sarandon). We meet Miller as his luck as a fraud on a personal and business front is in danger of running out. After years of light-footed dancing, Miller suddenly finds that through being irresponsible he is now responsible for a tragedy that has happened, the future of the only kid he knows that doesn't want his money (Nate Parker) and a whole lot more besides. Jarecki, however, isn't just interested in the downfall of one man, but the way that fraud can creep into all sorts of areas of life if you convince yourself that lying is 'doing the right thing'.


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Keeping up appearances is also vital to Jarecki's characters. Miller's wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon, making a big impact in limited screentime) wants to make sure her charities get their funds, Miller proves he is the ultimate chameleon and even slobby detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) wants to be seen as the man who brought down a kingpin, no matter what the cost.

Financial crime can be difficult to follow and dull to relate - as evidenced by Margin Call. But Nicholas Jarecki keeps the paper stuff straightforward and the action interesting by bolting it on to a more conventional thriller plot. This means the personal crisis facing Miller away from the balance sheet acts as a more visceral illustration of where fraud can leave you if people start to notice the lies don't add up. Conventional does not mean predictable, however, and as Miller's tale rattles along, Jarecki shows us how easy it is for anyone to abuse even a small amount of power over someone else.

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The camera glides along with Miller, watching him do that dance, and making his discomfort all the more obvious in the moments when it catches him still, trapped in a mess of his own making. Meanwhile, the retro electro scoring by Cliff Martinez (who brought a similar style to Drive) adds an echo of the Eighties, that other great decade of Mammon, to proceedings while ratcheting up the tension. The plot is taut, Gere is great and Jarecki a force to be reckoned with.

Reviewed on: 27 Feb 2013
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A hedge-fund magnate is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire before the depths of his fraud are revealed. An unexpected, bloody error forces him to turn to the most unlikely corner for help.
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The Jewel
Margin Call
Rogue Trader