By Kevin Carney
Director: Ridley Scott.
Cast: Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Plummer, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris, Marco Leonardi, Timothy Hutton, Andrew Buchan.
Ridley Scott’s latest film tells the true story of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), who in 1973 was captured by Italian criminals demanding a ransom of $17 million from his grandfather John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer). When the older Getty refused to pay even a penny for his grandson’s release, Little Paul’s mother Gail (Michelle Williams) fought with everything she had to bring him to safety.
Opening with the kidnapping, the film goes on to explain the backstory of John Paul Getty, who struck oil in the Saudi desert and became not only the richest man in the world at the time, but the richest man in the history of the world. Once this is out of the way, we get to know the man himself, who for much of his life put his business ahead of his family and caused his relationships with them to be very difficult.
Christopher Plummer was brought in to portray Getty once the disgraced Kevin Spacey, who had originally played the role, was removed the film after a series of sexual harassment and assault accusations were made against him. Scott did the seemingly impossible and reshot the scene featuring Getty in just nine days, and still managed to release the film on its originally intended date. It’s safe to say that the gamble has very much paid off.
Plummer brings Getty to life with such conviction that it is almost impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. His ambition and his paranoia when it comes to protecting his wealth are instantly believable, though the film successfully avoids making him seem heartless. It is made very clear how much he loves his family, in particular Little Paul, even though his desire to avoid seeming weak often takes precedence over that.
Michelle Williams once again proves herself to be one of the greatest actresses of her generation through her portrayal of Gail Getty. She manifests all of the emotions of a mother stuck in the impossible position of trying to keep everything together when her child’s life is in peril, and not for one second does it ever feel forced or phoned in. It never feels like a performance, but as if you are right there with this person as she goes through every stage of this horrible experience.
The rest of the cast does a fine job in their respective roles. Mark Wahlberg gives an understated performance as Fletcher Chase, an associate of Getty’s who is torn between his loyalty to the tycoon and his desire to help Gale rescue her son. Charlie Plummer’s portrayal is grounded in subtlety as he tries to keep a cool head in an environment where his life could end at any moment, though we only really get to know one of his kidnappers, with the others feeling very one-dimensional and generic.
Scott’s directing manages to hit many of the right notes. While not on par with his classics, he does bring a much-needed intensity to many of the film’s scenes, in particular a gory torture scene that will have viewers squirming in their seats. The quality of the performances in this film is a great testament to his ability to work with actors. But while he has managed to fit replace Spacey with Plummer very smoothly, an early scene set in Saudi Arabia has Plummer looking out-of-place with his surroundings, having clearly shot it in front of a green screen so that they could superimpose him over Spacey.
Though not perfect, All the Money in the World does an excellent job of telling this fascinating true story, with extraordinary performances from Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer.
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