Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dariusz Wolski
WRITER: David Scarpa
MUSIC: Daniel Pemberton
“All the Money in the World” has already made a little bit of history before it was even released. For future records and those who have been recently living under a rock, let me fill you in once again. This movie is about the 1973 kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III, played in the movie by Charlie Plummer. Originally, the role of his grandfather, the world’s first billionaire J. Paul Getty was to be played by Kevin Spacey.
In fact, the entire movie was completed and ready to go. There was already a trailer out featuring Spacey in the role. It was obvious from this trailer that TriStar Pictures was planning a huge Oscar campaign for the actor. Then, the sexual assault allegations began to emerge and suddenly Spacey was persona non grata in Hollywood.
In the past, this would have meant that the film was dead in the water. The campaign ads definitely stopped and there was also a cancellation in November for the film’s premiere at AFI Fest. However, another surprise also happened in November when TriStar announced that Ridley Scott had returned to reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes and the actor was replaced by Christopher Plummer.
Thankfully, the film benefits from this in more ways than just getting rid of its notorious original star. Before we get to that, though, I should comment that this film is only inspired by the true story of Getty III’s kidnapping. Even the movie itself tells you that it has made changes to certain aspects of the story for dramatic effect and if you want the true facts of the story, then you should research it after watching the film.
After Getty III was kidnapped, it instantly became worldwide news because he was the grandson of J. Paul Getty, the billionaire owner of Getty Oil. Unfortunately, Getty III’s mother Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) is divorced and not a real Getty. She has no connections to the family fortune and this means that she attempts to go to Getty in order to get the $17 million ransom.
Sadly, Getty has only one real love in this world: his money and having as much of it as he possibly can. Getty surprises the world when he comes out and says that he will not pay one single penny to rescue his grandson. This means that getting Getty III back is up to Gail and a former CIA operative named Fletcher Chase (Mark Whalberg), a person hired by Getty to get his grandson back using the least amount of money possible.
Despite the news surrounding the casting of Getty, the movie actually centers mostly on Gail and her struggles to get her son back. She has to not only deal with the extreme circumstance of her son being kidnapped, but also the strange world where the Getty family lives and only money reigns supreme.
Thankfully, Williams is up to the task of holding the movie on her shoulders. She is a vulnerable mother but she is also determined to fight back at anyone who gets in her way. Williams is one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood and I really hope that this movie at least gets her more recognition during the awards season and thusly more exposure for work in other films as well.
Still, despite this being Williams’ film, this movie definitely benefits by having Plummer as Getty. That’s quite an impressive feat considering that he just shot this sucker only a few weeks ago and on an extremely tight deadline. He absolutely nails Getty’s false sense of family pride and always exposes Getty’s absolute greed even when facing a family tragedy.
Also, it’s good that Plummer took the role because now it’s not just a big name actor that’s hidden under a pound of makeup, as was the case with Spacey. In just nine days, Plummer gives yet another performance for the film that will probably have all of the awards shows looking in his direction when the time comes.
The only problem with the film is that there are times where I can tell that the story is probably just taking dramatic license. To be honest, these are the more boring scenes in the film because they don’t feel as real as the rest of the story and they stick out like a sore thumb. The second act is where the film tends to drag the most except for the phenomenal scenes with Plummer that always work.
Still, if you can get past the slower pace, “All the Money in the World” is a pretty great crime drama from director Ridley Scott and filled with great performances throughout.