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Netflix Gem of the Month: 'Arbitrage'

“Arbitrage” (2012) 4 / 4 stars - by Jeff Mitchell - Webster’s Dictionary defines arbitrage as “the nearly simultaneous purchase and sale of securities or foreign exchange in different markets in order to profit from price discrepancies.”

For multi-millionaire Robert Miller (Richard Gere), he lives his life as one colossal high stakes arbitrage.

As the owner of a large hedge fund company in New York City, even the smallest of Robert’s decisions generate tremendous waves for people within his direct sphere of influence and for individuals unbeknownst to him.

In writer/director Nicholas Jarecki’s film, he deals with Robert’s three very specific purchases and sales, respectively, and all six of these individual transactions need to fit perfectly, or his life will not just fall apart, but crumble into dust.

One purchase deals with an overseas investment, and one sale is with his own company, but the other four arrangements, instead, demand negotiations with human beings in his personal life.

All six intertwine themselves and begin choking Robert with an emblematic noose.

Jarecki throws the audience in middle of Robert’s claustrophobic predicament, and the director's cinematic liberties deliberately torture us and make us squirm in our seats.

“Arbitrage” is a “the walls are closing in” movie.

In these types of films, the main character creates an unethical choice, and that particular decision sets off a negative chain reaction of events which cascade down on him or her.

I particularly enjoy these movies more than a standard thriller, but hand-wringing and rising blood pressure become the obvious repercussions to my health.

“A Simple Plan” (1998) and “The Square” (2008 International, 2010 U.S.) are two of the best “the walls are closing in” films released in recent years, and this picture stands right alongside them and their anxiety-filled greatness.

Speaking of greatness, Gere is so effective as the suave and smarmy socialite businessman who tries to cover up his misdeeds with charm and smooth talk while he makes lightning-quick decisions.

As his gilded world - of private planes, limousines and a beautiful supportive family - shifts underneath his feet, he changes his tactics, but in other cases, sticks to the plan in order to not fall into the abyss.

Most of us would crack under the tremendous stress, but Robert keeps up assured appearances, and does so except for one telling scene with his daughter, Brooke (Brit Marling).

The Hollywood Foreign Press nominated Gere for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama for this performance, and the Academy should have nominated him - in this critic’s opinion - for a Best Actor Oscar.

Quite frankly, “Arbitrage” deserves a Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

This movie perfectly plays into the war of two ideas: the rich have the cards stacked in their favor versus no matter how rich you are, karma will catch up with you.

Which one do you buy? Which one do you sell?

Image credits: Lionsgate


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