Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer
Written by Jessica Peña
What a treat it is to get Ridley Scott’s latest, ‘All the Money in the World,’ in the US on Christmas Day. I found a great deal of adoration in this film. Bouncing back from a major derailment, the film is a robust drama with powerful performances by its lead ensemble. It’s hard to form an expectation going into the film. Rest assured, Ridley Scott secured an impressive outcome.
‘All the Money in the World’ tells of the real life 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson to the richest man in the world, J. Paul Getty, the egocentric oil tycoon. The story follows Gail Getty (Michelle Williams) as she desperately tries to get her son back safely. A ransom of $17 million is put up for Paul’s return, and to the shock of the world, J. Paul Getty Sr. blatantly refuses. A man of lavish assets and an obsessive appreciation of old artefacts, he explains that the easy payment would bring all 14 of his grandchildren to be kidnapped. The stern J. Paul Getty will not stand for his money to be thrown away like that. For having expressed great love for Paul Getty III specifically, he is quite the selfish soul.
Scott’s latest film is a powerhouse with near perfect form, but I know what you really came here for. So let’s cut to the chase. Christopher Plummer crushes. The veteran actor proves himself to be an even more believable J. Paul Getty than what a prosthetic Kevin Spacey would’ve been. With just two months before release, news broke of sexual assault allegations made against Kevin Spacey. Immediately, the actor has since been blacklisted by Hollywood and much of the world, hopefully. There’s no denying that the outrage has circled ‘All the Money in the World’ with much attention and anticipation. It’s put a spotlight on Ridley Scott’s following move. From initial trailers, there was always something cringy about those pounds of makeup on Spacey. With all things considered, we still wonder what the Spacey final cut looks like. His work usually comes off very defined with sarcastic undertones, but having re-shot a total of twenty-two scenes with Plummer, Ridley Scott has welcomed in a much more sincere charisma to J. Paul Getty.
Reportedly Scott’s first choice for the role, Plummer was called in immediately following a 48 hour decision to recast. Scott is quoted expressing his decision to push the film forward and not risk failure. He wanted the work of the cast and crew to be honored and not damaged by Spacey’s involvement in the project. The shift is almost seamless. There is a brief, somewhat obvious scene where J. Paul Getty is in the desert attending to his oil business where Plummer was green screened in. Scott had nine 18 hour days to get his ducks in a row, and it is well worth the effort. Adapted from John Pearson’s book, ‘Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty’, this film sets up some serious examination of the wealthy man, but doesn’t completely make it about him. It was great to see a film that involved more than one calculated story.
Believe it or not, Michelle Williams carries this film so well. As Gail Getty is put through an enormous amount of stress and finds herself battling her father-in-law to pay up, Williams delivers stellar aggression as a woman who knows how to stick it to the richest man in the world. When J. Paul Getty refuses to pay the ransom, Gail is quick to put in efforts to rescue her son. She doesn’t settle to being paid out and silent in all of this. Being married into the Getty family proves be a battle in itself. Williams graces it with her Oscar-worthy energy. Mark Wahlberg is exceptional to the narrative as Getty Sr.’s business manager and ex-CIA agent, Fletcher Chase. We don’t see an award-winning Wahlberg, but Fletcher Chase grows a little in realizing just how selfish the great oilman really is. Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher, is certainly worth the attention as the 16-year-old, J. Paul Getty III. His performance cements him as a promising young actor. Let’s keep a little eye on him moving forward.
Let us not overlook Romain Duris, a French actor who plays one of the Italian kidnappers. His character has somewhat of a gratifying story. Interacting with Paul Getty III throughout the time they have him, we see a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome unravel. The story has its spectacular character moments there and in Gail Getty’s perseverance. Where it feels it should pick up momentum in its third act, it instead sits on murky exposition. Luckily, it wakes up in no time and closes off as a solid drama that was much better than I had expected.
From an opening shot that nods to Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita,’ to the gruesome cutting of an ear, ‘All the Money in the World’ manages to pull off a great technical achievement despite its publicized setback. It is a well grounded film that helps close 2017 on a strong note. It delves into what having all the money in the world does to someone and how it affects the children of the family. It deserves to be applauded for more than it’s magic trick of reshoots. The genius of it all is rooted from Ridley Scott’s impeccable direction.
Jessica’s Rating: 7.8 out of 10