“All the Money in the World” Movie Review


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     As one of the most notable and successful visionary directors of our time, the name Ridley Scott need only appear along side a film’s title for it to be given “must see” status.  And at 80 years old, it seems Scott is still managing to show the younger generation how it’s done, both in terms of his impeccable craft, as well as the energy he puts forth in the business of making movies.  With classics such as “Alien” (1979) and “Blade Runner” (1982) amongst his early filmography, Scott has had a brilliant career over the decades, but 2017 has appeared to be a banner year for the English filmmaker.  He began the year with the latest in the “Alien” franchise, “Alien Covenant”, produced the long awaited sequel to “Blade Runner”, “Blade Runner 2049”, and has capped off the year with his latest film “All the Money in the World”, a gritty retelling of the 1973 kidnapping of 16 year old John Paul Getty III.  The film is everything you would expect from one of the greatest living directors.

     Marring the film’s prospects; however, was the fallout from allegations against Kevin Spacey, who played the elder Jean Paul Getty and was featured in numerous trailers and marketing materials for months before the news broke.  And once it did, the firestorm was too much for the prospect of releasing “All the Money in the World” with Spacey appearing in it.  Sometimes, things tend to work out for those involved, as Scott indicated his first choice for the role, Christopher Plummer, would play the part, stepping into an arduous reshoot process designed to somehow still deliver the film by its Christmas Day release date.  Of course, Scott completed the task with all of the skill and professionalism you would expect, directing Plummer to an Oscar caliber supporting performance that provides the true anchor for the film.  As for Spacey, we’ll never know and it’s a shame since such a quality film will always first be remembered as the one where his performance was erased.

     It’s easy to understand why Scott was attracted to this material in the first place, as the Getty story is certainly intriguing, especially considering the circumstances surrounding the events depicted in the film.  Screenwriter David Scarpa adapts John Pearson’s novel which centers on the kidnapping of Getty’s (Christopher Plummer) eldest grandson, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), but as in any family related incident, there is so much more than just the headlines.  Scott takes us on a globe trotting expedition as we follow the history of Getty and his vast fortune.  In an early scene taking place in the late 1940s, we see Getty making oil deals in Saudi Arabia, providing the means and transportation to get the product all over the world. An endeavor that earned the penny pinching miser a fortune.  

     Moving into the 1960s, we meet Getty’s son, John Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan), and his wife, Gail (Michelle Williams).  Together, they have a son,  the aforementioned John Paul III, and two young daughters.  But with the family living in San Francisco, and the elder Getty living in England and busy with his oil empire, we learn John II hasn't seen or heard from his father in years.  Soon, that changes, when the elder Getty sends for the family and gives his son a job running a portion of the business.  Unfortunately, the younger Getty gives in to many of life’s temptations, resulting in a divorce from Gail and the loss of custody of his children.

     This sets the stage for the driving force of the plot in which a 16 year old John Paul III is galavanting around the streets of Rome alone and is suddenly kidnapped by a group of masked men.  The kidnappers know exactly who they were grabbing and contact Gail by phone asking for a ransom of $17 million.  Problem is, in order to get custody of her children, Gail signed away any right to alimony and lives check to check with no money to offer for her son.  And adding to the difficulty is the fact the richest man in the world, the grandfather of the victim in question, refuses to pay the ransom.  Instead, the elder Getty sends a member of his security team, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), to Rome in order to investigate the validity of the kidnapping.  As much as the story is about the kidnapping, it is equally about the effects on a family after a divorce and the lengths the people involved will go to in order to get what they think is rightfully theirs.  As the elder Getty quips early on, “You never really know someone until you get divorced.”.  No truer words have ever been spoken.

     Scott is known as a filmmaker to embrace the settings of which his characters occupy, consistently presenting their surroundings with astounding color and beauty.  In some cases, those characters and the script he was working with left a lot to be desired (“The Counselor” anyone?), but that is certainly not the case here.  The famed director not only gets an eleventh hour tour de force performance from Plummer, but he also receives exceptional work from Michelle Williams as a grieving mother made helpless by the extraordinary circumstances created by the kidnapping of her son and her former father in law.  Wahlberg also chips in with an effective supporting performance, taking a back seat to the more powerful emotion exhibited by Williams in her tug of war with the elder Getty.  And the story puts the younger Getty in real peril in which the stakes are made very clear, as there are a number of excruciating moments depicting the lengths the kidnappers will go in order to get their money.

     Scott’s work here is truly amazing, not only when you consider the circumstances, but as a whole.  “All the Money in the World” is another fine addition to this year’s crop of awards contenders, featuring a cast at the top of their game, a very relatable story, and Scott, who is still churning out this type of quality almost forty years after he first put himself on the map.  GRADE: A