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Wednesday , November 21 2018

‘Thank You for Bombing’ well-made war drama – ‘Truth’ behind rogue trader in ‘Outsider’

This image released by Warner Bros Entertainment shows Kevin Hart (left), and Dwayne Johnson in a scene from ‘Central Intelligence’. The movie had a relatively muscular weekend, with a better-than-expected $34.5 million, according to comScore estimates on June 19. (AP)
This image released by Warner Bros Entertainment shows Kevin Hart (left), and Dwayne Johnson in a scene from ‘Central Intelligence’. The movie had a relatively muscular weekend, with a better-than-expected $34.5 million, according to comScore estimates on June 19. (AP)

PARIS, June 20, (Agencies): A new fi lm about the French rogue trader Jerome Kerviel casts him as a bright provincial lad swept up in a whirlwind of ambition and corporate greed. “The Outsider” opens in cinemas across France next week just as Societe Generale, the bank Kerviel almost brought to its knees, makes a new bid to recover the 4.9 billion euros ($5.5 billion) it claims he lost them. Kerviel, 39, the son of a village blacksmith from the far west of rural Brittany, was jailed for three years for forgery and breach of trust but claimed his bosses turned a blind eye, while profi ts kept rolling in. Although paid a relatively modest salary by France’s third biggest bank, Kerviel is alleged to have made it 1.9 billion euros before the fi nancial crisis accelerated his losses. The fi lm by Christophe Barratier, director of the international hit “The Chorus”, is based on Kerviel’s own book “The Spiral: The Memoirs of a Trader”, and follows the young futures dealer up to the moment his huge losses were uncovered in January 2008. Barratier sat through the trader’s trial in 2012, where Kerviel was also ordered to repay the bank’s gigantic losses — which exceeded what the bank was then worth. “I think I have succeeded in getting close to the truth,” he told AFP, saying he was more interested in discovering the “human rather than the judicial truth”. But instead of making a courtroom drama, Barratier turned his story into a thriller which builds to the moment Kerviel is exposed.

Battles

“The fi lm had to stand up to whatever surprises are yet in store,” the director said, referring to the fact that Kerviel’s legal battles are far from over. An appeal court struck down an order that Kerviel repay the lost billions after he was let out of prison after only serving fi ve months in 2014. But Societe Generale are now contesting the order. Since his release Kerviel has reinvented himself as a computer security consultant and a trenchant critic of “casino capitalism”, even meeting Pope Francis after making a pilgrimage to Rome to protest against the “tyranny of the markets”. He won another court victory against his former employers earlier this month when a Paris labour tribunal ordered the bank to pay him 450,000 euros in damages for having fi red him “without genuine or serious cause”. But with the bank appealing that verdict, and still persuing him for compensation, the saga continues. The fi lm begins at a frenetic pace in the bearpit world of young traders at the Societe General headquarters in Paris’ La Defense fi – nancial district. Played by rising star Arthur Dupont, we see the brilliant young Kerviel “succumb to the intoxication of fi gures” — as he puts it in his book — with little or no limits being put on the “good earner”. But as time wears on, the stress and fatigue grow as Kerviel slips into what he called “the spiral… I smoked more and more and I slept less and less.” Some of the scenes are real, other invented, including the character of a more experienced trader called Fabien Keller played by Francois- Xavier Demaison. In the fi lm he shows Kerviel how to make a “spiel” — taking a risky position “that you should not take but which you do anyway” — before he realises that his protege has gone too far.

Depicted

Barratier said that Kerviel gave him “pretty much carte blanche with the script”, with the exception of how he depicted his family and friends. The director said he “stuck to the facts”, though when none of Kerviel’s former colleagues agreed to talk to him, he had to ask himself how they might have reacted in certain situations. Barratier is hoping that with Kerviel seen by many in France as a scapegoat for the sins of the system, the movie will do better at the box offi ce than the story of his English counterpart Nick Leeson. “Rogue Trader”, which told how in 1992 Leeson, from a similar working class background, brought down Barings, the Queen’s bank, was a fl op despite starring Ewan McGregor.

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A trilogy of cautionary tales about the dayto- day lives and fateful decisions of frontline correspondents in Afghanistan comprises the affecting and well-made Austrian war drama “Thank You for Bombing.” Festivals including Toronto, Zurich and Thessaloniki have already feted director Barbara Eder’s second film following her 2010 grad school feature “Inside America”, and distributors brave enough to take on the subject matter will find this a prestigious addition to their libraries. A timeframe for the action is never given. As the citizenry and military alike nervously await the blowback, the assembled journalists, as always a flaky bunch, walk the fine line between reporting the events and becoming the story. In the first chapter, entitled “Milan Vidic,” older veteran reporter Ewald Bendl (Erwin Steinhauser) is summoned from Austria to cover the events.

While waiting in the Vienna airport departure lounge, he recognizes the soldier, now travelling under the name Vidic (Merab Ninidze), who murdered his cameraman during their coverage of the Bosnian war in 1992. Or does he? Eder and cinematographer Christian Haake enlist Flughafen Wien as a character in this game of cat and mouse that concludes with the certainty that memory can be faulty but the scars of war are perpetually itchy. Vermont-born, Berlin-based actress Manon Kahle gives a galvanizing performance as crusading journalist Lana in the second chapter, called “Fitz & Bergman.”

With ambitions far beyond the Zumba classes that fill her downtime (“Smile, you’re in Kabul!” screams the off-screen instructor by way of motivation), she uses networking and good old-fashioned bribery to find the two soldiers responsible for the burning, only to take her life in her hands getting the story. The brutal climax of the sequence is tough to watch, but that’s the point: This is not the Afghanistan of Paramount’s recent “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.” Chapter Three, ominously entitled “War,” seems inspired by Captain Willard’s first-reel freak-out in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.” “I really need a war,” says hyperactive talking head Cal, whose stand-ups keep getting cancelled for lack of anything on which to report. As Cal grows increasingly agitated by the inaction, his insubordination to his editor gets him fi red, his lack of communication with his wife back home gets him an impending divorce and his unrelenting stir-craziness lands him on a desert sojourn with tragic consequences. Though it clearly models its acerbic, English-language title on that of Jason Reitman’s satirical “Thank You for Smoking”, these emotionally wrenching stories, laced with pitch-black elusive humor as they may be, come across more like a particularly judgmental O. Henry than the dramedic stylings of Tina Fey. When the violence finally restarts, as it must, the sense of relief amongst the journos, amongst whom the three protagonists may be glimpsed in the denouement, is, inevitably, one of relief.

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