George Clooney and Julie Roberts have made many movies and by now are like old friends to movie audiences. They also happen to be old friends off screen and their genuine chemistry and affection plays out well in this new thriller by director Jodie Foster.
Clooney plays Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer type money investment advisor with a flashy style who hosts a popular TV show produced by Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts). In the middle of taping the show Kyle Budwell (Jack O”Connell) sneaks into the studio and pulls a gun on Gates. He makes him put on a vest covered with explosives to which Budwell holds the trigger. Gates had been pushing people to buy the stock of a company called IBIS and due to a ‘computer glitch’, the IBIS stock lost $800 millions dollars including Budwell’s life savings. Budwell demands an explanation on live television or he’ll blow the studio up and everyone in it.
The movie plays out in real time which adds to the tension. Gates is hysterical at first but Patti, speaking to him through an earpiece keeps him steady and tries to get him to stall while the police are called and make a plan to diffuse the situation. When Budwell starts ranting about how the system is ‘rigged’ it sure triggers a reaction in the audience. How many times have we heard this word during the most recent political primary season? Isn’t this what most people think about everything right now? Especially Wall Street? There is a nice back and forth between Gates and Budwell, with gates being forced to think about his own influence and actions which he has taken for granted. Gates and IBIS CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West) are friends and Gates may have been doing more shilling than giving thoughtful investment advice. Gates and Patti make some discoveries that point to Camby being behind the computer glitch and embezzling the money for other business reasons.
The plot points may seem familiar or rote, if you’ve seen any hostage scenario film. The police try to take charge and make a plan that puts Gates’ life in peril. Gates and Patti eventually have to take matters in their own hands and hatch a plot of their own to get Camby (Dominic West) in a live interview with Gates and Budwell thereby exposing his wrongdoing and satisfy Budwell enough to turn himself in. It all seems improbable but it makes for an exciting movie. You have to credit Clooney for giving star performance. He has charm to spare and he really delivers the goods here. Roberts is also solid in a role that keeps her stuck in a control room and a van for most of the film. O’Connell, first seen in the Angelina Jolie directed Unbroken in 2014, is lively and expressive and hold his own with Clooney.
Director Jodie Foster has directed only a few films (Home For The Holidays, Little Man Tate, The Beaver) but this one seemed her most sure handed. The tension is tight throughout and the performances are uniformly good. I hope she gets behind the camera more often. Her best work may be yet to come