Review written for the Doha Film Institute website.
The 6th Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) opened with ‘Arbitrage’, a film produced by Mohammed Al Turki. The thriller dives into the life of Robert Miller (Richard Gere), a billionaire at risk of bankruptcy and involved in illegal schemes to save his company. An unexpected car accident menaces his plans and possibly his life.
This is not a typical action-filled thriller; the tension grows gradually, giving enough room for the characters – at least six are key to the film – to develop. ’Arbitrage’ features one of Gere’s best performances, or, as my colleague mentioned is simply an example of ‘a good Gere movie’. He embeds the best and worst of Miller, successful broker and the broken billionaire. He enjoys a perfect life, flies on private jets, has a beautiful family and a prospering business. But this comes with a high cost; a restless routine leaves little time for himself. Sympathy and envy are aimed at Miller, at least during the introduction.
Following a tragic car accident from which Miller escapes, but his mistress doesn’t, an episode of unfortunate events unfolds. He faces financial and personal crises; his illegally borrowed $400 million to cover losses pressure him, and he is now hiding from a crime scene.
It becomes difficult to morally judge the situation. Instead, Jarecki’s story (his first feature film) evolves into a gripping game-like melodrama, focusing on how the slightest of mistakes could collapse the ‘Miller’ empire. Will detective Michael Bryer (played by the amazing Tim Roth) succeed in his mission to get Miller behind bars? Or will Miller manage to manipulate the system?
Miller is a charming fraud who has perfected meticulous deception. Financial details are sometimes explored in too much detail, but are rarely overbearing. More of Ellen Miller (Susan Sarandon), the dutiful wife, caring mother and, in her own way, a cunning businesswoman, might have enhanced the picture. The moment she’s featured in a scene, she spices up the screen; the challenges involved in being the spouse of a Miller-like person are fascinating.
Overall, ‘Arbitrage’ provides an interesting case study; it’s a subjective reflection on morality.