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When the CEO of France's Phenix Bank collapses on the golf course, Machiavellian young executive Marc Tourneuil is crowned as his replacement. A whirlwind of ruthless ambition, power struggles, greed and deception ensues as Tourneuil's brutal ascent is jeopardized by a hostile takeover attempt from a large American hedge fund led by Dittmar Rigule, erotic distractions from international supermodel Nassim, and adversaries with an agenda for destruction.Written by
Cohen Media Group
Is there something "The Capital" shows that we didn't already know ...
It's interesting that Costa-Gavras chose to make a personal diatribe against finance through his "Capital" since he's most renowned for his politically-oriented themes that contributed to such memorable movies as "Z" or "Missing". I say 'interesting' because "The Capital" reminded me of another finance-themed film from another political director: Oliver Stone's "Wall Street", THE movie that summed up the inner amorality of finance through the iconic : 'Greed, for a lack of better word, is good'
I wasn't surprised that the political director made his cinematic "J'accuse" against finance, since it proved to be true ruler of our liberal world, whose only alibi for existence is to pretend there's no better alternative. After the economical crisis, the Goldman Sachs and Bernard Madoff' cases, after the French President claimed to have made finance his enemy, finance was definitely political matter, and if Costa-Gavras makes a film about it, it's certainly worth our attention. The question is: what would the film show that "Wall Street" didn't? (and this comes from someone who didn't even watched its sequel, "The Wolf of Wall Street" or "Margin Call", not yet)
I expected the most overused clichés from "The Capital", the young ambitious yuppie (Gad El Maleh) riding a fast ascension, his discovery of a world of corruption, lust and greed, ethical dilemmas, probable redemption etc. And the casting of Gad El Maleh didn't comfort my thoughts. Gad (as he's generally called) is one of the most popular comedians in France, but his transition from stage to cinema didn't bring much positive results. His "Chouchou" and "Coco", both cinematic adaptations of popular sketches were critically panned, much more; Gad never really struck as a serious comedian, and was never considered an equal to Jean Dujardin or Vincent Cassel, to give you an idea.
Then I looked at the trailer and was already cringing at his crisped face, he was obviously trying to inhabit the gravity of the subject by playing the tough-guy, and if it doesn't work for Di Caprio, it's even worse for him. The trailer gave away the most archetypal situations, the corrupt bankers, the cynical American, the sexy top-model, the fast-paced editing and the obligatory round trips between Paris, New York, London and Tokyo. I really didn't expect much, and watching the film was almost accidental. The film was a commercial bomb, and even Gad's popularity didn't help, or were people tired of the subject? I guess I wanted to see where I would stand for, and my expectations were so low they could only be positively contradicted.
The first good point relies on the straight-forward narrative, Marc Tourneuil (Gad El Maleh) is not the Boy Scout that would make a perfect puppet for his hierarchy: he understands the malevolent schemes behind his nomination as a CEO of Phenix bank, replacing the former, cancerous President. He knows he has the opportunity of a lifetime to win money and be the master of his own actions. That's a first deviation from the usual 'selling-soul-to-the-devil' plot and it was quite refreshing to see a character who already embraced the cynicism of his environment. The film turns immediately into a chess game involving Tourneuil, the board members, the head of an American hedge fund (Gabriel Byrne), and in a zero-sum game, we expect only one winner.
Indeed, it doesn't take a MBA degree to understand the plot, complex but not contrived. In a nutshell, it's all about finding the tricks to distract the French government from a plan of mass-layoffs in order to increase Phenix' profitability, there are many cases of insider trading, of political maneuvers, fiscal exits and such expectable lines as 'money never sleeps'. The film tries to cover every aspect of finance, succeeding by not making it feel too forced or cliché. However, this owes more to the story than the acting or the script. Gad delivers a fine performance but there are moments where his character didn't exactly know what to do, and I suspect it was the actor lacking the right direction. Gad proved to be an actor of fair capabilities and his performance alternates between some powerful outbursts to awkward lines' deliveries where he's never totally Gordon Gekko, and can't convince as a Buddy Fox.
It's regrettable because Costa-Gavras had the material for a good film, not the most subtle one, but for a gripping thriller and fair entertainment. Yet he polluted it with some unnecessary subplots such as a dull romance with a top model. The film skates over the difficult compatibility between Marc's job and his private life, there are some moments with his wife and his family that could have been fueled with more energy and self-questioning, after all, wouldn't we be interested to see a businessman with a family, for once he's not the lone wolf, young and single. Marc's wife could have added more to the story, allowing her to deviate from "Wall Street" formula but she was too underdeveloped and it's only between Gad and Byrne that the script revealed its few strengths.
Now, I'm more perplexed regarding the fourth-wall breaking moments. It might be a promising concept on the paper to have the protagonist address us, making us wondering if he's really enjoying or disdaining the game he's playing. I think it's up to the actor to make the thing believable or out-of-place, it worked at the ending of "Goodfellas" because Ray Liotta had that liveliness in his eyes, the intensity in the narration that immediately grabbed our attention. Gad talks in a too much laconic voice and really seems like reading lines without believing in them. Anyway, I expected more flamboyance from a modern Robin Hood.
These technical aspects highlight the flaws in the script, that mixed up the words 'insightful' and 'preachy', whether it's to tell us that finance is bad or necessary (or both), we simply wonder if there is something the film shows we didn't already know.
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