UK Release Date: 5th January 2018
Runtime: 133 minutes
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: David Scarpa
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris, Andrew Buchan, Marco Leonardi
Synopsis: When the grandson of a disgustingly wealthy oil magnate is kidnapped in Rome, the boy’s mother desperately appeals to her father-in-law to pay the ransom and secure her son’s safe release.
If ever a film was overtaken by events, it’s All the Money in the World. The movie became trapped in the midst of the revelations regarding abuse in Hollywood, with director Ridley Scott announcing he would reshoot huge sections of the film in order to replace disgraced actor Kevin Spacey with Oscar winner Christopher Plummer. Even this week, positive reviews and awards notices for the film have been overshadowed by the allegations that leading actress Michelle Williams was paid just $1,000 for reshoots that earned supporting actor Mark Wahlberg as much as $1.5m.
Away from the controversy, though, Ridley Scott has delivered an efficient, slick thriller that tells a remarkable true story in highly entertaining fashion. It’s an eclectic choice for Scott, but it once again shows what he is capable of when he is provided with a decent script, as opposed to his own questionable whims at the helm of the Alien franchise.
The movie begins with the kidnapping of Paul (Charlie Plummer) in Rome by thugs hoping to extort a $17m ransom from Paul’s mother Gail (Williams) and, more importantly, his billionaire grandfather J Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer). When the older Getty refuses to pay the ransom, the kidnappers step up their threats and, eventually, Gail travels to Italy with former CIA operative Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg) with the hope of bringing Paul home.
All the Money in the World is a prime example of Scott’s status as a consummate professional. Considering how many hoops the film had to jump through before it could even make it to cinemas, it’s remarkable how slick the resulting movie is. This is most notable, obviously, in the work of Plummer, who delivers a note-perfect performance. There’s one scene early on, in which an expensive location clearly required some green screen work to insert Plummer, but other than that, it’s quickly impossible to imagine anyone other than Plummer as Getty. He’s a perfect snake in the grass, capable of oozing charm when required, but permanently nursing something sinister behind the eyes.
The film starts at a stately, measured pace and the first hour occasionally drags its feet in an attempt to build the story slowly. Around the middle point, the accelerator pedal is pressed to the floor and the narrative gathers steam on the way to an exciting finale. It’s here that Scott keeps the pace moving and the remarkable details of the true story gift him with a number of twists that are delivered with real emotional impact, mostly thanks to Michelle Williams and her fantastic performance. There’s some streamlining of events in the final third for dramatic purposes that does feel a little too convenient even as it’s unfolding on screen.
Williams is handed much of the heavy-lifting in the story and does committed work with a role more defiant than the typical put-upon mother stereotype. Mark Wahlberg, meanwhile, is miscast and struggles to make an impact with what he is given. This is Plummer’s movie, though, and it’s entirely right that his performance is the one attracting awards season attention. He’s magnetic and loathsome, exuding real menace even in scenes that are lit in a sort of sludgy firelight that does the lavish interior sets absolutely no favours.
All the Money in the World is far from a life-changing movie and it does feel long, particularly during the slog of an opening act. It is, however, a film that manages to step out from the shadows of news stories created entirely outside of its own control. Thanks to a stunning central turn from Plummer and strong work from Williams, this is a pleasantly old-fashioned and enjoyably slick thriller that knows when to turn the screw.
Pop or Poop?
Perhaps surprisingly, it’s Christopher Plummer’s last-minute performance that feels like the most polished part of Ridley Scott’s workmanlike vision in All the Money in the World. The film is uneven in pacing, but it builds to a satisfying finale with enough twists in the tale to keep the audience guessing as to where the stranger-than-fiction true story will finally end up.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.