Topical suspense specialist Costa-Gavras (Z, Missing) tackles the financial sector in Capital, a thriller that pits a French CEO (Gad Elmaleh) against an American hedge fund that wants to take over his bank. Plotted like an airport-bookstore novel, the movie jets between boardrooms, fancy restaurants, and mansions. Characters are continually arriving at their offices, getting in and out of limos, and talking to each other using webcams hooked up to big-screen TVs. The imagery is cliché, and therefore ineffective; the characters don’t seem to operate in the world of finance, but in the world of financial thrillers.
Though informed by post-Recession anger, Capital pins the blame on executives whose greed and recklessness was empowered by the system, rather than the system itself. But while Wall Street—which gets quoted in the dialogue—at least bothered to convey the rush its characters felt from making money, the best Capital can muster is Elmaleh’s character staring at a supermodel (Liya Kebede) and then tumbling into an affair with her. Considering that its plot is driven by the characters’ wants, the movie seems unwilling to explore why they want.
The few explanations offered are simplistic. Elmaleh’s character, Marc Tourneuil, is named CEO at the beginning of the film after his predecessor is diagnosed with testicular cancer—a heavy-handed metaphor for unchecked machismo. The head of the American hedge fund, alpha male Dittmar Rigule (Gabriel Byrne), tempts Tourneuil with webcam shots of the bikini babes hanging out on his yacht. A boys’ club mentality is to blame, says the film. (Unsurprisingly, the lone voice of conscience is female.)
But “because they are men” isn’t a satisfactory answer. It doesn’t explain the inconsistent behavior of the characters (Tourneuil is alternately an all-knowing anti-hero and a Catfish-grade naïf), and it robs the movie of any sense of real-world relevance. Without an original take, a cogent political angle, or credible characterizations, all the movie has left are its junk-fiction plotting and some handsome cinematography by Eric Gautier.