Sundance 2012: Nicholas Jarecki's 'Arbitrage' is Compelling, Thrilling
by Alex Billington
January 23, 2012
When it comes to thrillers involving Wall Street billionaires, they've got to have a unique edge, something deep with the main character, to prevent them from following into the "First World Problems" (and "Rich People Problems") trap. Nicholas Jarecki's Arbitrage deals with one of those billionaires, a Wall Street hedge fund investor and business owner, who ends up in somewhat of a downward spiral after one crazy incident, and it's the people around him, those he involves and doesn't involve, that are affected. It's a taut, riveting dramatic thriller that had me nervously on the edge of my seat up until the very end. A great film.
The film focuses on Robert Miller (played by Richard Gere), and his family, including Susan Sarandon as his wife, Brit Marling as his daughter, and his various business associates. Of course, there's an affair, there's some bad business deals and potential fraud that could have him thrown in prison, there's a huge pending deal that could save him from everything, and there's a complex series of events that build up then set us off when things go wrong. The film has one of those shock-and-awe moments that is best kept secret until you see it, as the experience of watching the story build and then switch courses drastically after that moment is part of what makes it so incredible, so captivating, and so thrilling to watch.
Similar to the Sundance films Margin Call and The Company Men of years past, this thriller has a business-oriented focus based on an incredibly intelligent and complex script. It's never confusing or overbearing, but it is gripping and captivating up until the very last shot, which you'll be waiting for. While sympathizing with Robert Miller is a challenge, it's the balance between that like and dislike that makes him so complex, yet intriguing. There are also other unique characters who pop up out of nowhere that become not only the most interesting characters in the film, but the ones to sympathize with and care about. They're the ones I was nervously following to the end, hoping their fate wouldn't be worse than Robert's.
Arbitrage was another surprise, another film that I wasn't sure whether to expect a boring drama or a tense thriller, but it's the latter and it's damn good. The score, by Cliff Martinez, adds quite a bit of the mood to it, and the performances from the cast are excellent. Richard Gere is fantastic, but the real standouts are Tim Roth as a Detective and Nate Parker as Jimmy, whose involvement I can't reveal as it's vital to learn about him and who he is throughout the course of the story. The balance between all of the characters was near perfect, without steering to far from Gere, but giving us enough of everyone to remain compelled.
This is one of the best business dramatic thrillers that still hasn't settled with me even a few days later. I'm constantly thinking back to the characters, the moments, the scenes and the dialogue, and how intricate the story was. This is another film from Sundance 2012 that I'm already anxious to see again and discuss with everyone else whose seen it, and that's certainly a testament to just how remarkable of a thriller it is.
Alex's Sundance Rating: 8.5 out of 10