The Smartest Guy in the (Very Well-Appointed) Room

Costa-Gavras, NYC, 10/9/13

Costa-Gavras, NYC, 10/9/13

Economics PhD, possible game theorist, and thoroughly amoral (surrounded by immoral colleagues), poker-faced Marc Tourneuil (Gad Elmaleh) accidentally ascends to the position of CEO at Phenix, a powerful French international investment bank.  And although others (in his firm, on Phenix’s board and an American vulture capitalist, Dittmar Rigule, played by Gabriel Byrne) see him as a place-holder, a stooge, Tourneuil has his own plans.

During his five-decade career, Oscar-winning writer/director Costa-Gavras has examined abuses of power in the worlds of politics, the police, the military and religion.  With his latest twisty thriller, “Capital,” he zeroes in on a 21st century seat of power–the world of high finance.

To save Phenix (and send its stock price soaring), Tourneuil destroys (the old) Phenix, firing 10,000 employees through a process of “self-assessment,” inspired by the methods of Chairman Mao, detailed in a book that is his wife’s (Natacha Regnier) bedtime reading.

Initially resisting Rigule (head of a hedge fund that owns a large minority share of Phenix) who, with barely-concealed motives, commands him to buy a Japanese bank that is a swamp of toxic assets, Tourneuil capitulates.   And (ably aided by a private investigator searching through everyone’s “poubelle”) outmaneuvers all supposed allies and obvious opponents, resigns his position and rapidly regains it.  The CEO is dead, long live the CEO.  Echoing Gordon Gekko, Tourneuil happily calls himself “Robin de Bois Moderne,” Robin Hood in reverse, stealing from the poor and gleefully giving to the rich.

“Capital” opens today at the Paris and the Regal Union Square and expands nationally on November 1.

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