All the Money in the World, 2017.
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Starring Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, and Romain Duris.
Not only is John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) the richest man in the world, he’s also the richest anyone has ever been. Seeking an opportunity to extort money from him, a gang of Italian kidnappers abducts his grandson Paul (Charlie Plummer) from the streets of Rome, and subsequently demands $14 million for his release. However, they don’t count on the priorities Getty has in place when it comes to his wealth, leaving Paul’s mother (Michelle Williams) to negotiate with impatient terrorists and a belligerent billionaire stepfather.
Enough column inches have already been dedicated to why All the Money in the World required extensive reshoots, but nothing can prepare you for the sheer volume of material Ridley Scott had to redo in order to deliver his film on time. The final result is a staggering achievement. It’s as if the prolific director was being given a deadline by the Italian kidnappers at the heart of this prestige ‘true story’. It also begs the question, why didn’t they get him in to fix Justice League?
A timely parable about disparities between classes and the age-old adage that money corrupts, it’s a black void of humanity that’s represented by a screen enveloping Christopher Plummer. A performance of reptilian, specifically chameleonic characteristics, that requires the veteran actor to depict Getty throughout the years; there are glimpses of a doting grandfather, but they’re all consumed by a desire to “be rich”, often at the expense of family. It’s a turn of underplayed intimidation, that provokes disgust and pity in equal measure. A giant performance. There’s no wonder he was first choice for the role.
His antithesis is Michelle Williams, who’s once again stellar as the mother who refuses to cry for her son. Gail is well aware of how intrinsically linked to the poisonous empire of the Getty family she is, but in a world in which money talks, she has no choice but to enter into Faustian pacts. Williams plays Harris with a cold edge, which some might find alienating, but it makes a refreshing change to find a hardened woman who won’t take any crap against the backdrop of 70s era male domination. The truths relating to her character might be completely different, as an end credit title card adds as a caveat to events, but played any other way, by any other actress, and the Getty story wouldn’t have been this intriguing.
In a relatively small cast, which probably aided the reshoots, Wahlberg performs to the same level that saw him impress in The Departed and The Gambler, getting a nice grandstanding scene with Plummer, and as Chinquanta, the self-appointed leader of the kidnappers, Romain Duris excels by giving an extra dimension to a role that can so often conform to one-dimensional stereotype.
As for Scott, he continues to be one of the most consistently inconsistent directors around, veering from the confused structure and seeming disinterest of Alien: Covenant, through to this meticulously underplayed adult drama. He revels in the visual metaphors that come with the location shoots; using the backdrop of Rome’s crumbled ruins, and having Plummer stride through them Empirically. Like much of the films imagery, it isn’t subtle, but it’s pretty effective.
All the Money in the World won’t change the world, but with its slow-burn dramatic intensity, all anchored by a trio of excellent performances, it’s just the kind of grown-up movie to refresh your cinematic palette.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★