"Gere gives an intense performance, marching to his own villainous theme..."
There’s a crucial difference between an evil man and a dishonest man. The dishonest man, more often than not, has ‘good intentions’ whereas the bad man does not. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions; Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is a dishonest man. As Arbitrage’s plot unfolds it becomes clear that everything Robert Miller does, in his opinion, is for the greater good. Though this is not enough to condemn him, it is enough for Nicholas Jarecki to portray him as the villain.
A power play is built around Miller, he manages a hedge fund with his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling), and he has a beautiful - yet frustrated - wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) who pretends to be oblivious to his affair. As a multi-billionaire with power and women it seems like he has everything, but laden with lies and deceit, his life begins to crumble due to an investment loss and the accidental murder of his mistress, an atrocity that he is running from. By using the many puppet strings that he has in his power he manages to evade detective Bryer (Tim Roth) - whose demeanour is annoying at best – and escape the justice he is due.
Arbitrage is an honest look at the power of money and the façade that develops around Robert Miller’s determination to control his world. Gere gives an intense performance, marching to his own villainous theme which acts as the background music to his every corrupt move. The depiction of him as the iniquitous ‘bad-guy’ is enhanced by a black trench coat flowing behind him in a cape-like fashion. It may sound laughable, and you’re probably picturing Gere in some sort of Magneto getup, but it works as an attractive foreshadowing technique; when the trench and theme-song emerge you know something is about to go down.
Though Cliff Martinez’s soundtrack is a valuable asset for the suspense in Arbitrage, with this film, silence is the key. Every lead up to an intense moment, say an argument or an explosion, uses silence to give the critical event a more powerful effect. Everything in Arbitrage is just right, there’s nothing fancy about it and the acting from the entire cast is passionate. It is a solid film, though admittedly with a few loose ends. Nonetheless, as Jarecki’s first feature-length film it is surprisingly brilliant.