DIR: Ridley Scott • WRI: David Scarpa, John Pearson• PRO: Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis, Dan Friedkin, Mark Huffam, Ridley Scott, Bradley Thomas, Kevin J. Walsh • DOP: Dariusz Wolski • ED: Claire Simpson • MUS: Daniel Pemberton • DES: Arthur Max • CAST: Christopher Plummer, Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg
Inspired by true events, and now heavily publicized by a necessary cast replacement, All the Money in the World is Ridley Scott’s latest offering about the kidnapping of oil magnate J.Paul Getty’s grandson in Italy in 1973. With a ransom set at seventeen million dollars, Getty (Christopher Plummer) declines to buy John Paul Getty III’s (Charlie Plummer) freedom as it’s “not tax deductible” and also because he would potentially have to spend money freeing all his fourteen grandchildren if they were all kidnapped. Despite the insistence of Getty’s daughter-in-law Gail (Michelle Williams) attempting to change his stance, Getty hires his trusted business aide Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to negotiate the cheapest means of freeing his grandson with his Italian captors.
The attention of this film has obviously circled around the post-Weinstein decision to entirely remove a person of notoriety from a film after several allegations of sexual assault. Ridley Scott insisted All the Money in the World would be released during its original release schedule, despite re-shooting several key scenes with a different actor in a time-frame most filmmakers surely would be too scared to even contemplate. There are several positives to this film, and with the casting of Christopher Plummer, Scott has substituted on the cinematic equivalent of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scoring in ‘Fergie Time’ to upset the odds and win.
Here, Christopher Plummer excels as J.Paul Getty. He inhabits the worst of capitalism and Getty values tangible commodities such as Vermeer paintings rather than people or his own family. David Scarpa’s script allows Getty to boast about his wealth – as well as humorous lines to demonstrate his inherent desire for “more” – and the insights into Getty’s personality are superbly dramatised by Plummer. You hate Getty; you laugh with Getty; you can also sympathise with Getty. All these facets are examples, especially the discreet humanity offered by Plummer, as to why the previous Oscar winner should have been awarded the role in the first place instead of the disgraced Kevin Spacey.
Ridley Scott’s assembled cast are also just as praiseworthy. Michelle Williams shines in her role as a single mother fighting against patriarchal forces to support her children. Her performance is balanced considering the plot and her characterisation of Gail Harris doesn’t delve into melodrama territory and she offers emotion when appropriate. Charlie Plummer – no relation to Christopher – also refrains from melodramatics as the captive John Paul Getty, or Paulo, as he’s known to his captors. There is also a Stockholm Syndrome development between John Paul and Cinquanta (Romain Duris), one of his captors, that plays well alongside John Paul’s absent relationship with his AWOL father.
The minor negatives of the film surround the respective storylines of the ensemble cast. The interplay between Cinquanta and John Paul is not efficiently fleshed out. Nor is Mark Wahlberg and his negotiations with the Italians. He becomes a bystander to the story and is irrelevant, apart from one showdown with J.Paul Getty in the film’s final act.
With the script, Ridley Scott has created a work that demands and rewards the viewer’s attention. He doesn’t over-exaggerate the capitalist greed of Getty and he offers a viewpoint from the captors who want their share in his excessive wealth and the excesses of capitalism itself. The Getty family are full of characters that create interest in their lives and the 133-minute running time didn’t feel long enough; much like James Gray’s captivating The Lost City of Z.
There is one simple, yet effective, juxtaposing sequence of Gail clutching her son, then Getty clutching a million dollar painting. It’s an obvious nod to the differences between Getty and his family and the divide between socio-economic classes. Also, “It’s the time of the season for loving” is a poignant lyric from The Zombies – ‘Time of the Season’, which features in the film that assists the juxtaposition. It’s a suitable song choice within the current Trump-era where love is assigned to power, money, greed, instead of actual humanity. Ridley Scott has helmed a film that is concurrently past and present.
Ultimately, All the Money in the World is a thoroughly enjoyable film, despite Getty being the avaricious tycoon he was. Ridley Scott, an octogenarian, has essentially pulled a cinematic all-nighter with another octogenarian whose casting was crucial to the success of the film’s plot and perhaps the film itself. Scott saved this film with nine days of re-shoots. There has to be recognition in that fact alone. He also stood up and defied the toxicity men in Hollywood have possessed and are now rightfully being dethroned for. Thankfully, All the Money in the World is starting the 2018 cinematic year on a more positive and hopeful note.
15A (See IFCO for details)
All the Money in the World is released 5th January 2018