All The Money in The World
Review by Paul Preston
All the Money in the World arrives in theaters with a load of backstory behind it. Ridley Scott’s take on the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson is now notorious for originally casting Kevin Spacey as Getty until Spacey’s sexual assault charges came to light, prompting Scott and the filmmakers to re-shoot his entire role with Christopher Plummer as Getty. Word from Scott is that he wanted Plummer all along, but the studio (Tri-Star) suggested Spacey to attach someone more appealing at the box office. The result is a resounding improvement, based on what I’ve seen of Spacey’s performance in the trailers. Plummer dominates not only his scenes, but he casts a powerful presence over the entire story.
Getty’s grandson is also named J. Paul Getty (the third). It’s clear the Getty name means everything to the elder Getty, to where Abigail Getty, wife to Paul the second is pretty much disowned once she divorces out of the family. This becomes problematic when Gail’s son is kidnapped and her richer-then-possibly-imaginable former father-in-law won’t fork over the $17 million ransom to save him from his captors.
Michelle Williams gives another in a career of fantastic performances as Abigail, met with struggle on all sides of her attempt to save her son. Her mix of cunning and desperation is always thrilling to watch. She is helped by Mark Wahlberg’s Fletcher Chase, a fixer who handles situations for Getty but has growing sympathy for Abigail. Wahlberg looks great here, but is undone a bit by his lines passing through the standard Mark Wahlberg line delivery #1 machine – high-pitched and breathy with a hint of wonder. You know the tone I mean.
I’m so glad I didn’t have to wade through a Spacey performance bogged down by distracting makeup. Plummer is 88 years old, and with his well-worn scowl and high-end wardrobe, he’s already an imposing presence. Unlike the footage of Spacey I’ve seen (and it’s still out there on YouTube), Plummer is more in ownership of his rich prick demeanor, whereas it looked as if Spacey would be “putting it on”, acting the part as opposed to being it. There’s a simplicity to Plummer’s performance that’s shocking, as Getty makes awful decisions that negatively affect his grandson and daughter-in-law without internal struggle over the hurt he’s causing. He’s a shallow, petulant billionaire and a perfect villain for our times.
The tale of Getty III’s kidnapping is full of excitement, yet Ridley Scott unfolds it at a judicial pace, often jumping back in time to fill us in on backstory that will inform later scenes. There are twists and turns and stakes get raised as the kidnappers get more frustrated (including one stomach-turning moment involving the postal service…). Did all these moments happen? Like, did Abigail accompany the police who make an early guns-a-blazing raid on a potential kidnapper hideout? Probably not, doesn’t seem safe, but who cares! If they’ve added some fun stuff to boost the tension, mission accomplished. I’m sure there’s a documentary out there about all this if you want facts. Here, just when the characters get comfortable, either the kidnappers, Getty, Getty III or something out of nowhere give a jolt to the story to mix things up. I only wish the climax was as arresting as other parts of the movie. The story is wrapped up satisfactorily, but not with the BANG the film’s suspense called for up until then. Also, the kidnappers are rather faceless, except for an 11th hour real mafia-type and a kind, gentle criminal who does most of the communicating with Abigail.
Production throughout is top-notch, as you’d expect from Ridley Scott. Production Designer Arthur Max, who has worked with Scott since the ‘90s, builds a Xanadu-esque fortress in the Getty mansion. Dariusz Wolski has shot the last five Scott films and captures the long-time look established by the great director of grand visuals, impressive locations and potent mood (the mood a lot here, describing both the dark Getty mansion and the wavering belief that J. Paul Getty III will be alive by film’s end is…murky).
Let’s re-shoot some other films from this year and re-release them to see what kind of improvement we can get! I’d like to see Fist Fight with Michael Cera instead of Charlie Day, maybe we get some levels there? Or how about Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets with Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana as lead actors who’d be invested more? This could get interesting…
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Release Date: December 25, 2017
Run Time: 132 Minutes
Distributor: STX/Tri-Star Pictures