All the Money in the World review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Say what you will of Ridley Scott but his ability to shoot film is impressive. He pulled off his greatest feat with All The Money In The World, a real-life thriller that was to star Kevin Spacey as the elderly John Paul Getty. But when the controversy broke out over Spacey’s indecency, Scott decided to do what seemed like the impossible; recast Spacey’s part with Christopher Plummer, reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes and still make the deadline of hitting theaters in only a few weeks. Considering how much was reshot and how well Plummer owns this role, it’s an astounding stunt of how quickly Scott can turn out greatness.
The Getty family is established one of wealth and pride. John Paul Getty had built himself up as the most established of oil tycoons, able to afford a comfortable life for his family and purchase incredibly expensive paintings. He’s also very frugal as a classic miser, desiring to do his own laundry in his lavish estate as opposed to hiring someone to do it for him. So when he discovers that his teenage grandson, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), has been kidnapped by an Italian crime ring, he’s not exactly keen to shell out the $17 million being asked for in the ransom.
Frustrated with J’s refusal to pay is John’s mother Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), who had originally divorced John Paul II (Andrew Buchan) for his drug problem. She doesn’t have the money to pay, having reject alimony. And J is certainly not going to help her monetarily if he has to, considering that anyone could kidnap a Getty and make a mint if they tried. It doesn’t help that he also views his blood as property, treating his grandson with the same wealth and impersonal desire of a fancy product on auction.
What J is willing to spend money on is his associate of an oil negotiator, Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg). Fletcher previously worked for the CIA so he has a bit of an idea on how to handle this situation as the criminals get antsy and the media swarms around the family. Fletcher tries to keep thing professional but the more he takes an emotional interest in Gail, the more vicious he feels towards the uncaring old Getty.
The tensions are ramped high not just with the Getty family feuding over finances. The grandsons kidnappers are unstable and disorganized. When one fearful gang member accidentally shows his face to the grandson, the gang takes precautions and disposes of the exposed criminals, leaving behind a burnt corpse. The criminal ring taking in the grandson goes the extra mile to show they mean business by slicing off a body part and mailing it to grandpa Getty. Realizing nobody will come for him, the grandson will have to find his own way out or rely on the humanity of others to see how inhuman this hostage situation has become.
The film could have either been entirely about the Getty negotiations or the third Getty generation escaping his kidnappers. Presenting them both with an equal balance of screen time makes the film all the more stirring and encompassing. More than just the messiness of the situation, the movie boasts real character dynamics and conflicted outlooks, as when the eldest Getty slowly comes to realization of the error in his ways, mounting with each day he refuses payment. If not a brilliant film by Scott’s standards, it’s another fantastic showcase of Christopher Plummer’s acting that has aged as the finest of wine.