ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michelle Williams, Charlie Plummer, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton
All the Money in the World is a prime example of a movie that works two-fold due to the scandals presented both on screen and off. The on screen story kicks off in 1973 with 16-year old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) strolling the streets of Italy being propositioned by call girls. Out of nowhere, a van pulls up next to him with masked figures jumping out and grabbing the boy before he can scream for help. John Paul is being used as a pawn with an asking price of a $17 million ransom. The film flashes back briefly introducing the audience to his family’s legacy as he’s the heir to Getty Oil. His grandfather John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) is considered the wealthiest man of all time due to his oil business, and the kidnappers are out to take a piece of that fortune.
It’s a fractured family to say the least, but it’s implied that John Paul had a moderately close relationship to his grandfather despite his parents divorce. His father was a massive drug addict, so he grew up with his loving mother, Abigail (Williams). She refused child support as long as she got full custody. Despite his wealth, Getty was oddly frugal to the point of only investing in collectible art pieces. The news of John Paul’s disappearance travels fast, but Getty seems oddly unfazed by the demands. He has no interest in paying the ransom but sends in his on-staff negotiator Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg) to deal with Abigail and the kidnappers.
All the Money in the World was the second film for director Ridley Scott in 2017 following the summer’s release of Alien: Covenant. Even for being the accomplished director that he is, it’s quite a feat when you step back and think about this film’s road to release. Scott finished production on the film with Kevin Spacey in the John Paul Getty role. Once the Spacey scandal broke, Scott made the wise choice to reshoot his scenes, and hired Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer to take over the role. In less than two weeks, Scott re-shot key scenes and re-edited the film all in time for it’s original December 22nd release date.
Christopher Plummer proves he was the right actor all along. I can’t imagine Spacey in the role buried under layers of prosthetics to age him up. Plummer has the history and gravitas to play the disgraceful billionaire in a way that Spacey would not have been brought forth. For lack of a better word, Plummer is rich with ruthlessness as Getty. He’s a despicable person 99% of the time, yet Plummer has a glimmer of acceptance and sadness behind his eye. Matching his intensity is Michelle Williams (Manchester By the Sea) as Getty’s former daughter-in-law, Abigail Harris. Williams is the master at playing flawed women, but Abigail felt like a very different role for her. There’s something very youthful to many of her previous characters that she completely shies away with here. Williams keeps Abigail slightly off balance, but strong enough to stand up to Getty’s controlling demeanor. She and Plummer feel right at home with the material.
The same can’t be said for Mark Wahlberg who’s caught in the middle of both of them as Fletcher Chase. He feels miscast, as he can’t escape his contemporary Boston persona. The character’s a former CIA operative, but there’s not a lot context written for him, nor does Wahlberg bring any note of intrigue to him. I felt like I was watching his character from The Departed but dressed in ‘1970s attire. He fits better in the contemporary true story genre that he’s been doing with Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriot’s Day)
Ridley Scott treats All the Money in the World like a page-turner mystery shaped around a tragic Italian saga. The script by David Scarpa (The Last Castle) has a fairly familiar formula to it starting off with the kidnapping, followed up with a little backstory, and then keeps the rest of the film in negotiation territory. It’s kept pretty lean without opening it up to expand on the Getty family history or how the world and news outlets reacted to the Getty kidnapping at the time. Scott excels at creating tension and suspicion throughout with one unsettling character after the next. No character goes unquestioned as various theories pop up. It’s a story of wealth and reputation where someone’s name comes with expectations. The name Getty was synonymous with money, and Scott and Scarpa make sure to utilize this concept over and over. The film’s title is blunt, much like Getty’s attitude. The word “Getty” is repeated many times, even within the same scene, to reiterate the power in someone’s name. One of Scott’s final images is a bust of Getty’s head showing that he will always be present in his family’s life long after he dies.
The Getty kidnapping seems too bizarre to be true. Scott keeps that mystery alive and present throughout, but doesn’t bother answering all of the questions afterwards. Don’t go in expecting the traditional real-life photo montage to play during the credits. You get a brief explanation of what followed, but it left us wanting to do some serious Google-ing when we got home to tie up some loose ends and learn about the downfall of the Getty name. Interestingly enough, Ridley Scott directed Balthazar Getty, the son of John Paul Getty III, in 1996’s White Squall. All the Money in the World is a reminder that wealth and excess can be dangerous when flaunted around. And that anyone is replaceable, even if you’re a two-time Oscar and Tony winner.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Ridley Scott’s made a slick thriller based on one of American’s most notorious families.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS