It’s difficult to see the interest in rehashing the highly-mediatised story of rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel who famously lost French bank Société Générale 4.9 billion euros during 2007 and 2008. But director Christophe Barratier has taken a shot with L’Outsider. In line with recent US films like The Big Short or even Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, Barratier’s film doesn’t shy away from the complex financial background to Kerviel’s massive losses. This certainly keeps the audience on its toes even if it makes for less than riveting viewing. L’Outsider is slick, full of energy and cracks along at a fine pace, yet it remains oddly devoid of any real interest. Barratier has gone for the human angle portraying Kerviel, as the title suggests, as a loner, Kervielnwas obsessed with the business of making billions for his employer while strangely caring little about his own financial gain. As a character, he’s not especially interesting. He lives on his own with few friends and scant contact with his family. Barratier injects a love-affair with an attractive female colleague in a vain attempt to give Kerviel more depth, but this reveals nothing as to what made Kerviel tick. And why he pushed himself to take more and more outrageous financial risks with his employer’s money. Fine performances by Albert Dupontel as Kerviel and François-Xavier Demaison as a fellow trader are worth the price of a cinema ticket but there’s nothing original or insightful on offer here.
Jérôme Kerviel (Dupontel) joins Société Générale in 2005 as a lowly assistant trader and soon captures the attention of his maverick boss Keller (Demaison) who tutors him in less orthodox ways of making money for the bank. Kerviel largely stays above the frat-boy atmosphere of the trading floor and soon becomes transfixed with playing the money markets taking ever greater financial risks. Given the huge amounts of money he is making for the bank, his employers choose to not dig too deeply into his methods. But it all comes crashing down in 2008 when its revealed the rogue trader has pushed losses at the French bank to a whopping 4.9 billion euros.
Barratier last hit pay dirt with the international box office hit The Chorists which was in competition for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2004 Academy Awards. It narrowly lost out to Spanish film The Sea Inside directed by Alejandro Amenabar. Kerviel is often in the news in France most recently last month when he won a case for unfair dismissal against Société Générale. But even the regular resurfacing of the whole bank scandal is unlikely to reap box-office gold for Barratier’s oddly-timed film.