Movie Review: All the Money in the World

After the film was finished, one of the lead roles was reshot with a new actor

All the Money in the World (Všechny prachy světa)
Directed by Ridley Scott
With Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Christopher Plummer, Timothy Hutton, Romain Duris, Andrew Buchan

The kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III in Rome in 1973 made international headlines, playing out across the summer. People alive at the time will remember the details, most notably that J. Paul Getty, the richest man in the world, refused to pay anything. He claimed it would put his other family members in danger, as well as encourage further lawlessness. The fact was he simply would never spend on anything but his art collection.

Director Ridley Scott has made a suspense thriller out of the story, with a script by David Scarpa. Both are better-known for science fiction, but the world of Gettys is so strange, that it may as well be another planet.

The film itself made news when after it was finished. Scott and the producers decided to edit actor Kevin Spacey out, but still, release the film in time for it to qualify for Oscar consideration. Spacey has become embroiled in a scandal, and the negative publicity promised to sink the film at the box office. Christopher Plummer was called in to play the elderly J. Paul Getty and a large part of the film was quickly reshot.

The film got more bad publicity when it leaked out that star Michelle Williams got a fraction of 1 percent of what Mark Wahlberg was paid for the extra scenes. Wahlberg eventually donated his money to the #metoo movement.

Williams, though, had very few scenes with Plummer. In the plot, J. Paul Getty refuses to see her. Wahlberg’s reshoots were much more extensive.

The film starts with J. Paul Getty III being snatched off the street after he flirts with some prostitutes. Charlie Plummer, no relation of Christopher Plummer, plays him as a somewhat naive teenager, enjoying what Italy has to offer and getting by on a combination of his looks and family name.

More of his background and the intricate relations in the Getty family are revealed in flashbacks featuring J. Paul Getty, Jr., (Andrew Buchan) and Gail Harris Getty (Michelle Williams).

Gail, the mother of the kidnapped teenager, is in a hard position, having the Getty name but no actual Getty money. Her desperation against the uncaring and distant J. Paul Getty drives the film.

Gail is put in the hands of Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), a former CIA agent who does security work for the elder Getty. They have a bit of a tense relationship.

The film dramatizes the real events, with a lot of contact from the kidnappers, and some sympathetic scenes to make one of the kidnappers, Cinquanta (Romain Duris), seem like a semi-decent person. Much of this is invented to spice up the action, as the real story is a bit flat dramatically.

The elder Getty is generally seen is his lavish villa surrounded by a vast art collection or in his boardroom with his lawyers and business associates. He has mostly isolated himself from the world.

It is unfortunately impossible to compare Christoper Plummer to Kevin Spacey. Just a few seconds of Spacey’s performance was released in a trailer before he was cut from the film. Spacey had extensive makeup to have him fit the part, and at least in the brief clip, it was not convincing.

Plummer, with his suave charm and easy smile, is a natural for the role, though. He is refined and polite, but unwilling to lift a finger to help anyone but himself.

He has been nominated for an Oscar for his rush acting job, the only Oscar nod for the film. Scott was overlooked for his directing, though he does an efficient job of both capturing the feel of the 1970s and condensing several months of repetitive waiting into a little over two hours of suspense.

There was some suspicion that Italian anarchists or communists were involved, and a bit more could have been made of that. Italy at the time was facing a lot of political unrest, protests and strikes.

In real life, a postal strike delayed a key piece of evidence. That is not mentioned in the film. The evidence instead turns up without delay.

Mark Wahlberg has a bit of change of pace. He for once doesn’t play a tough guy with an explosive temper, but a rather refined and mature character who tries to negotiate.

Michelle Williams, who gets top billing, keeps a surprisingly level head as the kidnapped boy’s mother, which in a way is a refreshing compared to the histrionics that this sort of role usually brings with it. The cliché of the distraught mother getting slapped to bring her to her senses is one that needs to be put to rest. She is actually the one to slap someone this time. Given a chance, she proves to be a tough negotiator.

1980s star Timothy Hutton turns up briefly as a lawyer in the boardroom scenes.

Ridley Scott is known for Alien, Blade Runner and more recently The Martian, but his career includes all sorts of other films from Thelma and Louise to the 2010 version of Robin Hood. He keeps All the Money in the World to a manageable scope, without spinning off into too many side stories.

Even if you know the outcome, the story makes for a riveting ride. It's a shame the publicity surrounding the film has upstaged the quality of the film itself.

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