By Tashi Wangchuk
With all the rave reviews and buzz around Richard Gere’s new film ‘Arbitrage’, I couldn’t resist seeing this semi-fictional story about the notorious Bernard Madoff who embezzled over $65 billion in the largest financial fraud ever recorded in the US history. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers commended the film as a “first rate; a powerful feature debut boasting an Oscar-caliber Richard Gere firing on all cylinders.”
So I hurried towards a nearby theater with bar, bought my ticket, grabbed the largest beer and excitedly went to see the movie. ‘This is going to be one of the coolest moments of my life,’ I thought as I sat two rows from the screen, holding my beer bottle. However, after I sipped some beer and sunk into my seat, the film rolled. I woke up with the audience applauding and leaving. It felt stupid to have slept throughout and missed the whole film. It was my lack of sleep the night before that put me to sleep.
However, I was determined to watch it again for Gere, who stars in movies only once in a while. So the very next day, I went to the theatre and bought my ticket, determined not to fall asleep.
Arbitrage is the first feature assignment of Nicholas Jarecki, a documentary filmmaker who graduated from the New York University film school at the age of 19. According to the film’s official website, Nicholas is best described as an innovative, provocative filmmaker whose work focuses on larger than life characters and morally ambiguous themes of industry, power, and corruption. Jarecki financed the film himself that also stars Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, and Brit Marling.
In Arbitage, Richard Gere plays a hedge-fund magnate Robert Miller who was desperately trying to sell his trading empire to a major bank before the depths of his fraud are revealed. The film is about the race between morality and money. Although money wins, it is the morality that triumphs ultimately.
The film opens with Gere being interviewed by a TV news reporter. He then travels on a luxurious private jet, meets his extended family members who anxiously await his arrival for a birthday surprise. Very soon we get to see the dark side of Miller who is already reeling under his financial malpractices and an affair with his mistress. He is further sucked into the vortex of complexity when his car meets an accident that would kill his mistress while on a secret trip. It is now Michael Bryer (played by Tim Roth), the hawk-eyed detective’s turn to expose Miller and his crime.
Gere’s performance as Miller is stunning and real. His classy and finely ironed black suit and white shirt coupled with his silvery hair, adds aura to his stunning looks.
In Gere’s career so far as an actor, I found Miller by far the best – even better than Edward Lewis of ‘Pretty Woman’ and Zack of ‘The Officer and Gentleman.’ I’m sure Mr. New Yorker will be among the strongest contenders for the Oscars this year.
Tim Roth, Susan Saradon and Brit Marling are equally praiseworthy of their work. However, it is Nate Parker who actually stole my sympathy with his outstanding performance as Jimmy Grant. The film could have been much better if someone younger and more seductive than Laetitia Casta could have played Miller’s mistress. But this is the only downside that I could possibly think of with this film.
The pace of the story is tight, engaging, and above all intricately written. Being someone who believes that a good film is only possible if the story is engaging, I given full credit to the writer, Jarecki himself. The ubiquitous background score that runs throughout the film pushes the story and characters to a new level. Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography is fresh, rich in colour and utterly beautiful.
Hats off to the entire cast and crew for making such a marvelous film! Tashi Delek!
Tashi Wangchuk is a Washington DC based independent filmmaker and TV producer whose earlier works include a feature length film: Richard Gere is My Hero & India’s Doorshan commissioned film: Democracy in Exile among others.