Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Short Take: Arbitrage

This review was originally published on Pol Culture.

Writer-director Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage is a crisp, tightly wound suspense melodrama. In the week following his 60th birthday, a wealthy financier (Richard Gere) is faced with the prospect of his superficially perfect life coming apart. He is attempting to sell the hedge fund he owns before a massive accounting fraud comes to light, but the buyer is dragging things out for negotiation purposes. His daughter and protégée (Brit Marling) is discovering the extent of his corrupt business practices. Most seriously, he has come in the sights of a police detective (Tim Roth) looking to nail him for fleeing the scene of a fatal car accident. Jarecki presents a world where the ends justify the means, and the ultimate end is maintaining appearances at all costs. His script is terrific: the plotting crackles, every element is thematically of a piece, and each twist brings further insight into the characters. His direction is every bit as strong. The staging and camerawork are sleek and unerringly effective at shaping the scenes. He does an especially fine job of orchestrating the actors. They play off each other beautifully. Gere is particularly superb. He modulates his trademark cockiness into a smooth, understated self-assurance. He is completely convincing as a man who knows from experience that he will invariably come out on top, yet never feels the need to flaunt it. (Viewers may find him especially reminiscent of JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.) The character’s moments of impatience, frustration, and desperation play like traveling cracks on the surface of an ice-covered pond. Gere is nothing short of riveting. The rest of the cast, which includes Susan Sarandon as the Gere character’s wife and Laetitia Casta as his mistress, provides excellent support. Yorick Le Saux provided the elegant, burnished-looking cinematography. The taut electronic score is by Cliff Martinez.

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