Director: Jodie Foster
Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito
George. Julia. Jodie. All three Oscar winners are teaming up for a sharp edge of your seat thriller that feels all too realistic. George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer type host of a cable show called Money Monster. He’s a showy kind of host who’s not afraid to veer off the script to be the hotshot star. The show is devoted to the New York Stock Exchange, and he’s considered the “Wizard of Wall Street.” He recently predicted the stock of a company named IBIS to skyrocket, but instead it plummets leaving stockholders broke. During a live broadcast of the show, a young man (O’Connell) is seen lurking on set. He’s caught on camera by the show’s director, Patty Fenn (Roberts), and it’s quickly determined that he isn’t the delivery guy. He is armed with a gun and straps a vest to Lee that has a live bomb attached. He takes Lee hostage as he blames him for losing all of his money on the IBIS stock. It’s up to Patty to stay in control of the situation and keep Lee alive as the FBI makes their way to the studio. Due to the nature of the show, it all airs live with millions of people watching worldwide glued into their television waiting to see how it all unfolds.
This is the fourth film directed by Jodie Foster and is, by far, the biggest film she has tackled as a director. She’s no stranger to acting in films of this high intensity, but her previous directorial outings have been on a smaller scale like Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays. Her last venture was the Mel Gibson bomb, The Beaver. For a film that takes place in real time, it’s an impressive story for her to take on with so many moving parts to pull it off. It is evident her background helps her stay focused on the characters and building the tension versus relying solely on the action and thriller aspects of it. She knows this kind of film would fall into a generic genre picture if you didn’t care about the characters or understand their motives. She spent years working on the script with Jamie Kinden, Aland DiFirore, and Jim Kouf trying to get it just right. Despite the constant drive in it, there is just enough given in the dialogue to understand the relationship between the Clooney and Roberts characters and what is possessing O’Connell’s character to get his voice heard.
It’s always great seeing George Clooney and Julia Roberts on screen together. They have great chemistry together that’s always evident regardless of the genre. This film relies on them as movie stars to carry it versus needing them to dig deep into their acting skills to go outside their comfort zone. The script allows them both to play to their strengths with Clooney playing up his charming and humorous sides. He gets to dance around on the Money Monster TV set and has some fun with the character. Roberts is back to the kick butt, take control powerhouse roles she can easily do. We don’t always see Roberts doing these kinds of movies. It was just a few weeks ago that she appeared in the horrendous ensemble film Mother’s Day and was cast as a grieving mother in last year’s Secret in Their Eyes, which I was also lukewarm about. This is one of her best films in years.
Young Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) gives an explosive performance as Kyle, the terrorist who takes Clooney hostage. He finds some inner layers without turning him into your standard madman. He’s a guy that is fueled with rage from the beginning, and like many of these people you hear about in the news, he doesn’t really have a plan of attack. He fumbles, makes mistakes, and doesn’t quite know how to stay in control of the situation when he realizes he’s in far over his head. As he finds out, it’s not just as easy as bringing a bomb into a television studio. The cast is rounded out by Dominic West as the CEO of IBIS, and Giancarlo Esposito as the head police chief handling the situation.
There’s just enough time in the beginning for the set up and then it gets right into the thick of the action. It’s a taut ride shaped around the ideas of a man who believes in conspiracy theories against the government. Foster is able to pull the strings to create a good back and forth between Lee, Kyle, and Patty in a claustrophobic setting. It was fascinating to watch Patty direct the action of the hostage situation in order to give them the overhand over Kyle. Money Monster takes on some big issues with media, big business, and corruption. Clooney proclaims at one point, “We don’t do gotcha journalism. Hell, we don’t do journalism period.” It’s a frank claim for how society gets their news and how antics draw in an audience. There are so many people out there that believe they are being robbed by big business, screwed over by the 1%, and are forced to listen to “PR mumbo jumbo” as a result. There’s also the fact many people turn to the stock market with a blind eye thinking it’s a get rich fast kind of ordeal. As we see in the film, it doesn’t always work that way.
The film accurately displays our bizarre obsession with wanting to be in the middle of the action during these types of situations. How many times do you see people taking out their phone snapping pictures of car accidents or other traumatic situations? The climax of the movie really showcases this with bystanders desperately trying to capture footage of the hostage on their phones. The end left me left a bit shaken at the eye opening and unjust reminder of the power that money can have over people. It’s not the ending I had expected from how the movie starts. Kudos to Jodie Foster who has an entertaining hostage flick on her hands. Money Monster will hopefully keep you engaged and on edge.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? A short, entertaining thriller where the less you know the better as it doesn’t always take the easy way out.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS