Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Company You Keep vs. Arbitrage, two modern political thrillers that unravel the lies—and lives—of the leading men.
PremiseIn the opening seconds of the Arbitrage trailer, there’s a familiar feeling that this family-focused, charitable hedge fund magnate, Robert Miller (Richard Gere), is a bit too good to be true—doubts confirmed when a brunette walks into the bedroom who does not appear to be Mrs. Miller (Susan Sarandon). But when a freak car accident leads to the death of his French mistress, Miller aims to conceal his role as the driver for the sake of his family and to prevent an investigation that could derail his business. The investigation begins to put pressure on Miller’s family, but there’s a second skeleton in the financier’s closet that just happens to have a $400 million price tag. Although viewers are well aware of the crimes in Arbitrage, much of the suspense comes from whether the people surrounding Miller will finally discover his secrets—and whether Miller can use his power to hide the truth.
In The Company You Keep, the thrills come from whether Jim Grant (Robert Redford) will be detained before he has a chance to prove his innocence. As a former Weather Underground activist, Grant is believed to have taken part in a bank robbery that ended in the death of a security guard. The single father has eluded capture for more than 30 years, and has raised his daughter in quiet hopes of putting the past to rest. But after investigative reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) discovers Grant’s identity, he’s on the run with his daughter, while Shepard explores the possibility of his innocence. Although Arbitrage explores the seemingly limitless potential of power and money, the downfall of rich financiers isn’t exactly a fresh storyline. Although Company does bear comparison to The Fugitive, the historical context of the Weather Underground provides a rich backdrop with plenty of political, sometimes fanatical, intrigue. Winner: The Company You Keep
Leading MenRichard Gere is already getting Oscar buzz for his role as Robert Miller. The intensity in his performance increases as the walls start to cave in on Miller, who becomes defensive and tense around his family members, alienating them and increasing the skepticism surrounding his innocence. Robert Redford’s Jim Grant reads less “cornered animal,” more “experienced veteran.” And after 30 years in hiding, the activist knows how to disappear. Redford depicts a man determined but exhausted, communicating fear through heavy silences as Gere does through shouting matches. Both of these men are backed by plenty of experience as leading men, and we’re certain neither will disappoint. Winner: Tie
CastSarandon makes a supporting role appearance in both films. And what a year for Sarandon. In addition to these two movies, she has supporting roles in Robot & Frank, Cloud Atlas, and The Big Wedding. Sarandon’s talent adds considerable performance value to both films, although we think her talents are put to better use in The Company You Keep, in which she plays a political activist who relays the passions of the Weather Underground movement—as when she quips, “We made mistakes, but we were right.” In Arbitrage, she is joined by the likes of Richard Gere and Tim Roth, as well as another Company actor, Brit Marling. But Redford’s legacy brings along a star cast, including Shia LaBeouf, Stanley Tucci, Anna Kendrick, Terrence Howard, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper and Sam Elliot. Oh, and of course Redford himself. With so many Academy Award-nominated actors—not to mention a fair share of winners—we’re guessing the awards odds are high for Company this Oscar season. Winner: The Company You Keep
The SecretsEvery good suspense-driven film is dependent on some pretty juicy secrets at the heart of a protagonist’s potential ruin. The majority of players in Company are well aware of what they assume is Grant’s guilty past, but it’s clear that there is more to the story than the Feds seem willing to admit. In Arbitrage, the stakes are high for the hedge fund magnate after he loses $400 million. Shuffling funds and living in denial can only cover the truth for so long, especially when a detective is breathing down his neck after the death of his girlfriend. The detective hits a nerve when he presents the stakes—”He does not get to walk because he’s on CNBC”—even though, as the tagline states, power seems to be his best alibi. With such high stakes, and parallels to the Bernie Madoff scandal, we’re wondering just how long this magnate can keep his secrets hidden. Winner: Arbitrage
DirectorCompany‘s Robert Redford vs. Arbitrage‘s Nicholas Jarecki? Not much of a competition, considering Redford’s repertoire and Jarecki’s short list of film-directing achievements (this will be his third shot at film directing, and his first full-length feature film). Redford’s last film, The Conspirator, was met with mixed reviews and completely failed commercially. Additionally, the much younger Jarecki may be coming in with his own fresh perspective that could rival that of the legendary Redford. But if the Company trailer showed us anything about the aging director, actor, and creator of the Sundance Film Festival, it’s that he is still relevant, and isn’t showing signs of slowing down just yet. Winner: The Company You Keep
The VerdictArbitrage appears to be a compelling thriller, and Gere’s performance is said to make the movie, but the company kept in Redford’s film is too irresistible to pass up. With an all-star cast working under a legendary director, we’re along for the ride. Winner: The Company You Keep
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