Richard Gere, in the role of Robert Miller, as beautifully aged, handsome gentleman, and a billionaire hedge fund magnate, gives gripping performance in the first feature film thriller by writer-director Nicholas Jarecki. Gere appears at the very epitome of success and fame and an enviable catch. However, as the story unravels, it become apparent that Gere is in over his head, having bet on an opportunity, with the money of his clients, which he now stands to loose. He is desperately trying to complete the sale of his mega empire to deal with this crisis, while also dealing with a personal crisis with his mistress, which can unravel his entire life.
In most movies, a lying, cheating, heartless man would evoke hate and anger and a hope that the movie has a fit ending, in the form of an appropriate punishment. However, in this movie Gere exudes confidence. His money, his looks and his confident and nonchalant behavior strangely evokes from the audience, perhaps a different response, a mere curiosity to see what happens and how the crisis in his life is resolved. The movie draws you in as a curious spectator without giving a chance to sit in judgment. Often in similar movies, where the protagonist in the role of a villain (if Miller may be called one), is meted out proper discipline, a lesson is taught, moral point made. That is not what happens in this film.
Jimmy (Nate Parker) — a Harlem kid whose father once drove Gere’s limo and was financially helped by Gere, helps the business tycoon out of the jam, from a sense of loyalty and obligation. But somehow you don’t feel a sense of outrage when you see Gere continue confident and composed, while this black kid, who has done nothing wrong, shudders with fright, and is mistreated by the cops, who plant evidence. In fact, you almost heave a sigh of relief, when the villain manages to skillfully escape the clutches of the law. But soon he meets his equal in his wife, played by Susan Sarandon, who is no novice to wealth and its trappings, the charity galas, shopping, gowns, and more. Sarandon ensures that his lucky streak ends with the very child who could have been irreparably harmed by his antics, in the end, benefiting the final fruits of his confidently played games in the corporate world. Even so, Sarandon shakes his composure, it seems, only temporarily. Alas, who would not find money and beauty charming, when it comes packaged so well?
First of all “Arbitrage” is a gripping thriller and on that score, the movie is a must-see. However, some reviews are negative, for a different reason. Boston Globe review for instance, says, “there is very little genuine anger in it, and there needs to be, not just toward the Robert Millers of the world and their rapacious entitlement but in the veins of these characters shoving each other aside to get ahead.” I disagree. I think it is precisely for this reason that the movie is important and more interesting. While it is primarily a thriller, in the end, it leaves you with interesting questions about human behavior. What chance has morality against package of beauty, wealth and all the trappings that go with it? And it is not just on account of the Millers of the world, but how we as society perceive beauty, confidence, and wealth that we allow Millers of the world to get away with murder. I rate the movie a 4.5 on a 5 point scale with 5 being excellent.