The newly appointed CEO of a giant European investment bank works to hold on to his power when an American hedge fund company tries to buy out his company.The newly appointed CEO of a giant European investment bank works to hold on to his power when an American hedge fund company tries to buy out his company.The newly appointed CEO of a giant European investment bank works to hold on to his power when an American hedge fund company tries to buy out his company.
There is at least one character, however, who has not lost her moral compass, and still has some, albeit minuscule weight in the film: the wife of the main protagonist, a former economics professor, and now an ambitious CEO of a leading French bank. Her pull on her husband, however, is only marginally stronger than the one that his extended family, of apparently modest means, has on him. He has feelings for her, as well as for his parents, but those simply cannot compare in intensity to the thrill of money. He is a man who understands "the way the world functions", as he is not shy to explain when questioned. It is a game, in which, typically, rich get richer and poor get poorer, but the reverse is not impossible, as we are told, only improbable. He is cool, calculated, unemotional player, consciously going for high stakes. Just like the others, towards him often inimical characters, who he does not blame for their repugnant behaviour, although certainly would not mind occasionally smashing their heads onto hard surfaces nearby. Of course, we understand that he could not have possible been any different and still belong to the top executive branches of the financial world.
Costa Gavras made his name in the genre of international political thriller, picking his subjects to be the most promising themes for such a film at a given time. It is already telling that he chose the world of high finance, and not of politics, as the most relevant field today. Indeed, the main character is addressed always as "the president", and he is treated as such by everybody he meets. He clearly lives in an entirely different world from the majority of even western, relatively well-off humanity, and his decisions, although made explicitly and exclusively for the benefit of the few, indeed affect, thousands of ordinary mortals. The bank that he directs, and pretty much all the interiors he ever dwells in do not fall far behind many European royal palaces. His world is the world of excess, but in his book it should be unapologetically so.
There is a hint in the film of a possible difference between the old European, and the new aggressive, American business attitudes, that may exist only on the surface. American bankers that we meet maybe cannot pronounce Modigliani's name correctly, but they understand perfectly that their French counterparts are just as greedy, and motivated by the same basic predatory impulses, as they are. As the main character says on one occasion, almost defending his adversaries across the Atlantic: "They are just businessman, like us". The difference seems to be only that the French operate from the high-ceiling, well decorated, old world Parisian buildings, whereas their American partners for their machinations prefer flashy yachts and skyscrapers.
The film certainly lacks the depth and the emotion of the very best Gavras' works, such as "Z" or the "Missing", but it functions well at the level of well written, competently shot, and expertly directed financial drama. It is an insightful, if not too original, commentary on today's state of affairs which to many will ring painfully true. There are also some fairly obvious flaws: the parallel thread with the "super model" that the main hero relentlessly pursues is rather stereotypical, and her attitude towards him appears far-fetched. It would have served the story's development better if the relationship with the multi-dimensional French female employee from London's office was introduced earlier and then further developed. This could have added some intellectual and emotional depth to the main character, beyond what was this way left only sketched. These comments notwithstanding, the film presents an entertaining and informative look at the dynamics of the modern world's new nobility.
- May 31, 2015