Friday, September 21, 2012

Arbitrage (2012)

arbitrage: noun. The simultaneous purchase and sale of the same securities, commodities, or foreign exchange in different markets to profit from unequal prices.

There are some people whose life is defined by the work they do. So much so that it is hard to even imagine them considering retirement. Robert Miller is one such person. A globetrotting multimillionaire who just had his best business year and appeared on the cover of Forbes magazine, he is celebrating his 60th birthday on the eve of closing the deal of his life. He is clearly very ambitious, having established an empire out of nothing. There are two primary conflicts in his life, both of his own making. Robert lives his life just like he does his business, placing serious bets, pinning his everything on his actions. As the title suggests, he tries to balance his gains by playing the people around him. He attempts to accomplish the merger, while keeping everyone in the dark about his huge financial black-hole. As the film progresses, you realize how deep in trouble Robert is and what he is capable of to clear his name. He is basically cleaning up after his recently committed mistakes. 

Arbitrage, which couldn't have had a more suitable title, is set in a cold, high-stakes world where a wrong decision can result in losses to the tune of several hundred millions and a few lives. Working in a swanky New York office space by the day and socializing at the banquet hall of Ritz-Carlton by the night, these people's lives are filled with charity balls, tuxedos and fake smiles. This is a proper corporate thriller. It often reminded me of last year's terrific Margin Call. I had read a few parts of Ebert's review and also had an idea what the general reaction was. Everyone had noted how it was impossible for them to not root for Robert Miller. Add my name to the list of people who fell to his charm. It's not just his looks (Gere is actually playing a character two years younger than he is;) there's this genuine desperation in his actions. He apologizes a lot and always gets away.

He is really good with his wife. You can tell they are having a healthy sex life. She's what one would call the perfect 'mob wife'. She enjoys the riches, she knows what he does and she doesn't ask too many questions. He also has a European mistress because, hey, his status demands it. To keep his talent-less eye-candy happy, he splurges on her interests. His prodigal daughter and heir-apparent Brooke finds out about the financial irregularities, but never suspects her father. She looks up to him- her mentor. My other favorite character has got to be that of Jimmy Grant, played by Nate Parker. A lot depended on him with his actions having the potential to change Robert's life. When he is told that he is just a mere suspect, he retorts with, "Motherfucker, I am black!". That was quite funny. And a little sad.  

I wondered why such a good film failed to make any sort of a serious impact. It comes down to poor marketing, I guess. The film's poster is abysmal and uninviting; look at how plain boring it is. The background score is very atmospheric and had a slight tinge of The Social Network soundtrack. It is a very good film. Also, it even holds up pretty well on the second viewing.