Richard Gere and ‘Arbitrage’ impress

In the last few decades, film studios have tried to find the best way to release independent films to a wider audience.  The newest release pattern to gain traction is the simultaneous release of a film into theaters and onto video on demand and ITunes.  Examples of films released through this pattern include the Oscar-nominated “Margin Call” and “Bachelorette.”  The most recent film to receive this treatment is “Arbitrage,” the new thriller starring Richard Gere.  Highlighted by excellent writing and acting, “Arbitrage” is a stunning look at loyalty and deception.

In “Arbitrage,” Richard Gere stars as Robert Miller, the billionaire hedge-fund magnate of a trading empire.  Looking to sell his company to a bank, Miller is trying to hide his indiscretions from his family, particularly his daughter and CFO (Brit Marling).  When a deadly accident threatens to destroy everything he’s worked for, Miller is forced to fend off a nosy detective (Tim Roth) and deceive his way to freedom.

“Arbitrage” is an effective and absorbing film in a number of ways.  In his directorial debut, director Nicholas Jarecki does a strong job of establishing the film’s dark tone.  Jarecki also does a nice job of creating a slow-building tension that gives the film a strong sense of realism.  The film’s cinematography also does a strong job in capturing how Robert Miller is trapped in his web of deceit.  The film largely takes place in enclosed spaces such as cars and rooms, with tight framing giving the film a claustrophobic feel.  In addition, Cliff Martinez’s atmospheric and subtle score quietly adds a level of tension to the film.

In addition to his capable direction, Nicholas Jarecki does an excellent job of writing “Arbitrage.”  A character study of a corrupt man caught in his own actions, Jarecki’s script does a superb job in crafting a complex lead character.  Jarecki gives the morally repulsive Robert Miller a surprising sense of humanity, as he values his family as much as he values money.  As a result, “Arbitrage” does a strong job of illustrating how deception affects loyalty.  Along with Miller, Jarecki’s script features rich and developed characters, particularly the crafty and nosy detective investigating Miller.  Jarecki’s script is also well-plotted, beginning the film with a sort of extended introduction that effectively allows the viewer to get under the skin of Robert Miller.

Along with its strong writing and directing, “Arbitrage” features a great cast.  In perhaps the best performance of his long career, Richard Gere is magnificent as the Bernie Madoff-like Robert Miller, perfectly capturing his character’s craftiness and immorality in a very human manner.  Gere also handles his more emotional moments, such as the aftermath of his accident, very well.  A commanding performance, Gere’s turn as Miller could make him a major player this award season.  Gere is also surrounded by a strong supporting cast.  Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon is subtly powerful as Miller’s wife, while Brit Marling is great as Miller’s smart yet naive daughter Brooke.  Up-and-comer Nate Parker gives a good performance as Jimmy Grant, the loyal driver whom Miller turns to in his time of need.  After Gere, the second-best performance in the film belongs to Tim Roth as the conniving Detective Bryer, who gives his character a rat-like quality and does a nice job conveying a New York accent.

Gripping, complex and featuring a brilliant performance from Richard Gere, “Arbitrage” is a well-crafted character study of a corrupt man.  “Arbitrage” also showcases the future of the simultaneous theater and VOD release pattern.  The film has done well in limited release and is the number one film on ITunes, illustrating that the future is bright for this release format.  No matter how it’s seen, “Arbitrage” is a film to look out for this fall.