Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is a generally successful business owner, though he has encountered some troubles in the past and is now trying to sell his company as quickly as possible. He and his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling) are also already negotiating a deal and all seems to be going well. Robert’s wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) doesn’t know about the problems, and she also doesn’t know about Robert’s affair with the young artist Julie (Laetitia Casta). But then Robert gets into a car accident while driving with Julie and Julie is killed. Since he wants to avoid the scandal, Robert calls Jimmy (Nate Parker), a poor, young guy who owes Robert a debt through his (Jimmy’s) father to pick him up. But when Det. Bryer (Tim Roth) gets involved, things seem to slip Robert’s control.
Arbitrage is a frustrating film, on two levels: one, it is so close to being great, but it just doesn’t manage the last bit to actually get there. Two, the ending wants to be frustrating (because the world is frustrating when it comes to powerful people) and Jarecki absolutely succeeds with that.
Jarecki set out to make a film about how powerful people get away with things, how pretty much everything works in their favor. And so he lets Robert get away with everything, with only minor damage to himself (and more major damage to the people around him). Which is, as I said, frustrating as hell. While it’s clear that Robert is not an awful guy (though not awesome, either), you want him to lose because you don’t want the system to work that way.
Richard Gere did an admirable job keeping the balance of Robert. Though I honestly would have preferred a film about Ellen getting the better of Bryer again and again. And not just because I love both Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth.
But while that frustration with the system is intended and completely warrented, there was also that other part. The part where the film is really good, and there’s nothing really wrong with it, but somehow something is missing that it just doesn’t make the jump to great. Maybe because I didn’t have a strong connection with Robert – neither like nor dislike. He just was the vehicle for the story to me.
That and the fact that the movie drags a bit and that they should have dedicated more time to Jimmy as a character and as an integral part of the story, are really everything I can fault the movie with. Which still makes it damn good.
Summarising: worth a look.