Film review: Arbitrage

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Nicholas Jarecki’s début feature, Arbitrage, is a financial thriller starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling.

After working on a deal to sell his company and leave his family incredibly wealthy, Robert Miller’s affairs and a criminal investigation leave the deal in doubt and Miller facing jail time.

After having penned the script to The Informers and producing some of the more well known documentaries of the last few years, Jarecki has made the leap into writing and directing his first narrative feature. Arbitrage is a début like few others, instead of concerning himself with visual flair or an experimental structure, Jarecki nails down the basics as well as he possibly can. As a thriller, Arbitrage works well and delivers the beats required of a financial thriller, there’s the questionable protagonist, his clueless associates and the one cop that’s “got his number”. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in story.

This kind of financial thriller has become increasingly common in the wake of the series of financial collapses over the last few years. Films such as The Company Men, Margin Call and Wall Street 2 have brought this kind of film to the fore. Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Wolf Of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio will likely cement it as a valid sub genre that can be as experimental as any other. The financial technicalities in the dialogue don’t inhibit the film, because despite the fact that this film is set in the world of big business and economics the majority of the thrills come from the set up involving an extra marital affair and a car crash.

The score by Cliff Martinez is quietly tense, but has nothing on his more recent work on Drive, The Lincoln Lawyer and Contagion. Martinez’ score for Spring Breakers and Only God Forgives are likely to be more pulse pounding. Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography lacks the flair seen in I Am Love and Swimming Pool.

Richard Gere’s performance is erratic at best, there are moments where his performance is intense and works well with the tone of the movie, but occasionally it does have a tendency to slip into melodrama. Sarandon’s performance suffers from the same problems, at times it is of the calibre that one would expect from an actress like Sarandon but it just slips into hysteria every now and again. However, Brit Marling and Tim Roth have a tendency to over egg the “intense” elements of the script.

Nicolas Jarecki’s début feature is a competent thriller. With solid performances from Gere and Sarandon, Arbitrage manages to keep you entertained. The direction and editing keep the movie ticking along nicely but the soundtrack and cinematography aren’t close to the crew’s previous work. There’s little in Arbitrage that you haven’t seen elsewhere and that can be ideal for a certain mood, but if you want something to raise your pulse and get you all fired up, you’d be better finding something else.

3 out of 5