Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Tim Roth and Nate Parker
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
Arbitrage is one of the year’s most well-acted, well-written and well-paced films. At a length of one hundred minutes, Arbitrage absolutely flies by, without a second of boredom. Richard Gere has been the focus of much of this film’s conversation, however he’s accompanied by equally efficient performances from Brit Marling, Tim Roth and Nate Parker. Screenwriter/director Nicholas Jarecki, in his first feature film, has crafted not only an intelligent screenplay, yet also delivered a visually slick and gripping final product.
Richard Gere gives a great performance as Robert Miller, however it is one that I think has been slightly oversold in regards to Oscars. His best moments in the film come when he cracks that smile and attempts to talk his way out of problems. The scene he shares with Tim Roth (Who plays Detective Bryer) in his office is one of the best scenes in the movie and a prime example of its dialogue and performances. The talk is witty, smart and multi-layered, while both of the actors through their facial expressions and body language are saying things that the script isn’t.
While Richard Gere is the face and body of smooth not just in this film but also in his career, Tim Roth is the perfect juxtaposition as the scruffy detective. Tim Roth is clearly having a lot of fun in this role and despite the fact that at times you are aware it is a “performance” whenever he comes on screen, he commands your attention and gets you interested in and believing what he is doing. His character isn’t really developed beyond what he’s introduced as, however Roth plays him so well that you are always happy when he is on screen. He also has what may be some of the film’s funniest lines. Brit Marling as Miller’s daughter stakes her claim for more roles, of a bigger nature, in bigger films. As the trusting, optimistic and arguably naïve daughter, Marling portrays a character that definitely goes on an arc and journey of discovery over the course of the film. The scene she shares with Gere in the park and her final scene in the film, are superb examples of her displaying all her emotions without having to say a word. Susan Sarandon doesn’t have much to do for the film’s majority, however she comes out to play towards the end, giving a great scene where we realize that her character was much smarter than she’d been letting on. A dynamic that I wish had been played with more, and to greater effect.
However my favourite supporting performance and perhaps my favourite performance in the film, comes from Nate Parker. As Jimmy, Nate Parker portrays a man trying to get his life straight, who is sucked into Miller’s web of deceit and forced to put everything on the line. It may have helped that I had never seen him in anything before, however he was the character I believed and sympathized with the most. A scene he has towards the end of the film is perhaps the most powerful and emotional. Just as with any supporting performance and character that knocks it out the park, you wish you had seen more of him, however every scene he is in is a winner.
However for many the star of the show, in what is his debut (fictional) feature, may be Nicholas Jarecki. Speaking of debut features with this, Chronicle and Cabin in the Woods, some of the year’s best films have been debuts. Jarecki has written a very tight screenplay, which is clearly written by somebody with a deep knowledge in what he is writing about. He never overdoes it with the dialogue and never has a character loudly state the point and meaning of the film. It is a surprisingly subdued, subtle and confident screenplay for somebody’s first. In fact, especially regarding the film’s ending, it may be too subdued and subtle for some. While the visuals aren’t anything to write home about, the film looks great and as mentioned earlier he keeps it moving at a great pace and doesn’t get a single bad performance out of his cast.
The film ended at exactly the point I wanted it to and considering the cop-out ending of End of Watch I had seen earlier, it was refreshing and reassuring to see a film end on an emotionally ambiguous note. While some may find plot holes and lapses of credibility and logic in some of the film’s dealings and cover-ups, for me the film never lost realism or credibility. At 100 minutes it doesn’t go into as much depth as it could and there definitely could have been one or two more scenes with each character to really flesh them out. However Jarecki keeps the film moving, keeps it focused on the plot and has us learn about the characters by how they react to these events.
On a final note, throughout the film I thought the music was fantastic, complementing the material perfectly. I was therefore pleasantly surprised yet then not surprised to learn that Cliff Martinez (Who did the score for Drive) was the man responsible.
Ultimately Arbitrage is one of the year’s most gripping films, with great performances and a gutsy ending. Gere and Parker give Oscar worthy performances, while Jarecki’s screenplay deserves to be a dark horse for Original Screenplay.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
Disagree with this review? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.