All the Money in the World, 2017.
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Starring Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Andrew Buchan, Romain Duris, Olivia Grant, Marco Leonardi, Charlotte Beckett, Stacy Martin, Francesca Inaudi, and Timothy Hutton.
The story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom.
There is a combination of three reasons that come to mind for Christopher Plummer’s accurately detestable and outstanding portrayal of Jean Paul Getty (regardless of receiving little to no preparation time coming aboard during re-shoots): He’s a talented Oscar-winning performer, he was high up on director Ridley Scott’s (The Martian, Gladiator) initial list of choices, and he was recently seen as Ebenezer Scrooge in The Man Who Invented Christmas. Their personalities aren’t too far apart; Getty is an insatiably greedy real-life version of Scrooge McDuck, except there is no charm here, but rather disgust at how a billionaire grandfather (the richest man in the world during the true story’s 1973 setting of beautiful Italy) can casually defy paying a life or death $17 million ransom for his own flesh and blood.
All the Money in the World (written by David Scarpa and based on the book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson) is the only hostage movie known to mankind where a feeling of mutual frustration settles in watching the kidnappers struggle day by day attempting to get their demands met. Not to state the obvious, but in theory, stealing a blood relative from any grotesquely wealthy human being, let alone the most obscenely financially secure one of them all, would result in an easy payday. Think again, as Getty is more interested in furthering his art collection and becoming more powerful (at one point it is revealed that he has blueprints to reconstruct his entire disorientingly humongous Italian Villa somewhere in California) rather than throwing so much as a penny at the criminals. When asked to name a price he would cough up the green for, he callously replies “nothing”.
Money is a symbol and no one takes that sentiment to heart quite like Getty, yet the hows and whys are lacking in detail. The script gives out information and Plummer takes that material for a crotchety spin making us believe that someone could be so cold, but it ultimately leaves something to be desired. Instead, it’s Michelle Williams playing Gail, the mother of her kidnapped teenage son, John Paul Getty III (a bit of a delinquent played by Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher Plummer) acting as the antithesis to everything Getty stands for, with a characterization that feels fully rounded and realized. To the mainstream media, journalists, and average citizens, she is just another repulsive Getty due to being married into the family, but in reality couldn’t be any more different.
Sadly, it doesn’t stop the aforementioned circles from leveling judgment and wrongful accusations her way (she’s often incorrectly lumped into the same category of decency as her father-in-law, too cheap and stubborn to fork over the ransom cash), something Michelle Williams takes all in stride undeterred to rescue her child. Family is everything to Gail while money is everything to Getty, and Ridley Scott successfully illuminates that juxtaposition not just with dialogue, but critical plot points that reemerge in the back half of the movie. Admirably, Gail just keeps pushing forward even when her body language tells the story of a woman that is ready to completely break down, especially so as things gradually become more hopeless.There is a sequence where it seems she may have found a way to amass the necessary money, and when it doesn’t pan out the shattered hope is palpable
Mark Wahlberg also turns in an impressive performance as a right-hand man security figure for Getty tasked with investigating whether or not the kidnapping was intentional (meaning that Getty III and his would-be accomplices would be free to split the large sum of money) or if it’s all real, and if so to bring the boy home as cost-effective as possible. Therein lies some complexity to Getty, as he does have a solid relationship with the boy (it’s actually his favorite grandson), but he has a warped approach to caring about the safety of his life. Naturally, Wahlberg comes to switch sides, and each time he does results in heated chemistry between himself and Plummer. Elaborating on that thought, for a major character who had all of his scenes redid in roughly 2 weeks, all of the exchanges and key moments simply work. Yes, Christopher Plummer was already familiar with the script, but people that watch All the Money in the World years from now likely won’t catch on to the film’s troubled production. Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg also deserve extra applause for not lazily going through repeated shoots; they could have easily put in half the amount of work after having already probably nailed their scenes, but don’t.
The only real issues with the movie come from an awkward structure (the first act contains a ridiculous number of time jumps, location changes, and quick subplots that carry the emotional depth that must be intended), pacing problems, and generically motivated criminals. Charlie Plummer does a serviceable job acting scared out of his mind while desperately seeking his own means of escape, but there is a noticeable lack of intensity, even during the finale. All the Money in the World benefits from the interactions between its leads and some moderately strong character work but falls just shy of greatness. Still, the final shot is a haunting visual loaded with substance. Accounting for its last-minute, hurried along change, the fact that this is good at all is a worthy accomplishment.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com