Rome, 1973. Masked men kidnap a teenage boy named John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer). His grandfather, Jean Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), is the richest man in the world, a billionaire oil magnate, but he’s notoriously miserly. His favorite grandson’s abduction is not reason enough for him to part with any of his fortune. All the Money in the World (2017) follows Gail, (Michelle Williams), Paul’s devoted, strong-willed mother, who unlike Getty, has consistently chosen her children over his fortune. Her son’s life in the balance with time running out, she attempts to sway Getty even as her son’s mob captors become increasingly more determined, volatile and brutal. When Getty sends his enigmatic security man Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to look after his interests, he and Gail become unlikely allies in this race against time that ultimately reveals the true and lasting value of love over money. (source)
All the Money in the World (2017, dir. Ridley Scott) chronicles one of those moments in history that you hear references to but might not have known too much about. In the 70s, this story seemed to be a huge deal, to the extent where I’ve noted references to it across different forms of pop culture. But it’s a story that I never really explored in proper depth to learn about – a miserly old man who won’t pay the necessary ransom money to save his own kin and is a real jerk about it. It sounds like it could make a good film with some excellent dramatic performances, and it does. This story is executed very well indeed by extremely beautiful yet purposefully restrained direction by Ridley Scott, and fantastic performances by all lead actors involved.
It is likely that any talk of this dramatic film will be overwhelmed with the dramatic events surrounding it. Kevin Spacey was originally meant to portray John Paul Getty III, however his role was entirely recast following the numerous sexual assault allegations made against him. The film needed extensive reshoots, and Christopher Plummer was chosen as Spacey’s replacement. I am so glad for it, and not only because Spacey’s cosmetically aged visage teetered into disturbing uncanny valley territory. Plummer is amazing, delivering an intense and spirited performance that is very much deserving of his Oscar nomination. The other piece of good news is that the transition from Kevin Spacey to Christopher Plummer is seamless (even though there is one moment where Spacey still features, albeit from a distance). Hats off to Ridley Scott, because if no one had ever even mentioned that this had even happened, you would never know. The only slight hint is that Andrew Buchan who plays John Paul Getty III’s son, kind of looks like Kevin Spacey, and you wonder if that was a deliberate casting choice prior to the reshoots being necessary.
All the Money in the World works well as an exploration of the lengths a mother will go to to save her children. Despite unbelievable odds, extreme difficulty securing ransom money, and essentially a needle in a haystack case of locating her son, Abigail Getty is determined in her pursuit to save him. Michelle Williams delivers a luminous and sensitive performance of a restrained woman who might have been described as cold and unemotional at the time; Williams portrays her as focused and determined, never willing to compromise on the rights and welfare of her son. Some of her scenes with Mark Wahlberg are oddly intimate, to the extent where you wonder if there were rumours about the two historical figures having an affair. Wahlberg’s performance is probably the low point, but is still enjoyable. However, Ridley Scott’s direction is fantastic, as is the cinematography by Dariuz Wolski, who makes use of the film’s gorgeous colours and set design, creating beautiful and lush visual atmospheres.
All in all, All the Money in the World is an excellent film, exploring a subject I only knew surface details of. To a certain extent, you can get distracted whilst watching this film by wondering about exactly how Kevin Spacey might have done it. You wonder what he might have brought to the role, how he might have been different to Christopher Plummer’s interpretation of the complex patriarch of an extremely wealthy family. You almost wish that you could see both films to compare performances. But ultimately, what has resulted following the reshoots is an absolutely fantastic film that is suspenseful, appropriately violent when necessary, interesting and exciting. It’s a good one.
Is it worth paying for a ticket?: Yes!
Watch the trailer here.