Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is a successful man; he has a loving wife (Susan Sarandon), a large family who show up to celebrate his 60th birthday and a New York hedge-fund business which has awarded the family the luxury that they live in which he is about to sell so that he can retire. That is how it seems to everyone but the truth is very different as not only is Robert having an affair with a younger woman but he has also borrowed over 400 million from a friend to cover up a bad business deal so that the business can pass an audit in order to be sold and time is running out as his friend wants his money back and Robert's fraudulent life could be exposed at any minute. And the pressure mounts on Robert when an accident leads to NYPD detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) snooping into his personal and business life whilst his daughter who works in the accounts department becomes aware of the figures not adding up.
I believe it was Sir Walter Scott who said "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!" and those words are perfect when it comes to "Arbitrage". Here is a movie with a charismatic charmer as its focus but one whose life has become dominated by a series of lies, lies which cause more lies and so on till eventually the pressure of juggling all those lies becomes too much, leading to not only sleepless nights but consequences when cracks in his lies start to form and people become suspicious.
Now the trouble with trying to review "Arbitrage" is that something important happens, 'the accident', but to reveal details of it would spoil the movie but it is the catalyst for Robert's life unravelling as it gets more complicated and the cracks start to show. But before that happens we are already aware that Robert is juggling lies from telling his wife he is going back to the office when in fact he is going to his younger lovers to the desperate situation with the business as he is covering up dodgy dealings which are made all the more complicated by his daughter working in the accounts department. Anyone who has found themselves living a life based on lies will know how bad it gets juggling the lies and never being able to rest because of all the thoughts filling up your head every minute of the day, including feelings of guilt.
The key to the success of "Arbitrage" is in the casting of Richard Gere because he is perfect at playing the charmer who has built himself a wonderful life but one who's fast talking covers up many lies. The way Gere plays Miller is to make him likeable despite us knowing that he is class 'A' liar who is doing the dirty on many levels. At the same time we have Tim Roth as detective Bryer and Roth makes him tenacious, a real snapping dog of a detective who just won't let go of things, tugging away till something breaks. Both these performances are great but then so are all of them with Susan Sarandon doing an equally good job of playing Robert's loyal wife torn by the nice life she has where spending millions is not an issue whilst deep down knowing that her husband is no saint.
What this all boils down to is that "Arbitrage" ends up one of those movies which is remarkably simple yet it is so well put together and well acted that you can't take your eyes off of it. Much of the reason for that is down to Richard Gere who is perfectly cast in this smooth operating, liar role.