Friday, December 29, 2017


The primary point of discussion about Ridley Scott’s true-life story about the 1970’s Getty kidnapping has been the 11th-hour recasting of lead actor Kevin Spacey. With just over a month before release, Spacey, in the pivotal role of J. Paul Getty, was completely cut out of the film and replaced by Christopher Plummer. It was an unprecedented move for Ridley Scott or any other director, and besides completing the film on time (which they did), the question became if the reshooting and re-editing would be seamless enough to save the film.

Billionaire J. Paul Getty (Plummer), refuses to pay the ransom for his kidnapped grandson Paul (Charlie Plummer), and assigns his oil negotiator Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), to assist Paul’s mother Gail (Michelle Williams) in finding the boy.

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD is a nice mashup of several genres of film; ranging from a caper, family drama, to global espionage. After the well-executed kidnapping scene, the film goes into extended flashback mode to detail the dynamic of the Getty family; exploring the rise to riches and the testy relationship J. Paul has with his son, daughter-in-law, and grandsons. It seems by the book, but this does great work in establishing J. Paul as a complicated man; rich but penny-pinching, and a want to keep family close not out of love but out of a desire to own things.

Once the backstory is out of the way and the film catches up with itself, Scott shifts gears into a globe-trotting exercise as things dizzyingly zip around from continent to continent, following Chase and Gail as they negotiate with the kidnappers with or without the money of J. Paul. After such great character work in the early goings, MONEY grows cold as those characters are kept at a distance in favor of the important events of history. The film ticks away from setpiece to setpiece, location to location, argument to argument…with very little character work done. There are few laughs and not many tears to be had here despite family being the center of things.

Still, Ridley Scott puts together a hell of a film. Tension is built beautifully; from the kidnapping, an escape attempt, and the white-knuckled climax with all interested parties converging nicely. Pacing is brisk with very few dull moments, and the film looks fantastic. The million-dollar-question of the Plummer edits is that for the most part, the editing is seamless. There is one shot where Plummer is superimposed via green-screen which looks really bad, and Spacey may actually be seen in one wide-shot, but everything else is perfect and impressively done.

Acting is excellent. Christopher Plummer puts in one of his best performances in his long and storied career. He’s ruthless and cold but complicated, and Plummer draws us in. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t get a lot of heavy lifting but is fine, and Charlie Plummer as the kidnapped kid goes through a lot and does very well. But the film absolutely belongs to Michelle Williams, who as the frenetic and heartbroken mother goes through every bit of emotion there is.

Anyone who is familiar with the true events of the kidnapping won’t be overly surprised at the third act or the finale (despite some major liberties taken), but the journey to get there is well worth it. ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD isn’t much of a character piece and certainly won’t warm any hearts, but it is a solid telling of an often forgotten part of history.


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