All the Money in the World
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer, Andrew Buchan and Timothy Hutton
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
4 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
‘All the money in the world can buy you many things, but it can’t buy you love.’ Isn’t that how the saying goes? Perfect title for this film because this movie is that very statement come to life. With this project, director Ridley Scott has taken on a story about oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. Getty has amassed a great fortune, has become the world’s first billionaire, and has become hardened to love. Since he has so much money, more than he could ever spend, it seems everyone wants a piece of it. People even send him letters, on a daily basis, pleading their case to see if he’d be willing to give them a few dollars to get them out of their current woes but his prosperity has one nasty side effect… greed. In his greed lies the true heart of this story.
Early in the film, you see a little history on Getty, who’s played magnificently by Christopher Plummer, and how he gained his wealth. He made deals for Saudi oil and then brought the oil out of the desert by creating a supertanker to carry it all out. His intellect and understanding of how finance works then made his money grow. Scott takes us to May of 1973 where one of Getty’s favorite grandchildren, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer; no relation to Christopher), is kidnapped. The kidnappers want seventeen million dollars for his safe return. The kidnappers try to get the money from his mother, Gail Harris (Williams), who is divorced from Getty’s son. She doesn’t have seventeen million dollars so she tries desperately to get the older Getty to understand what Paul’s life means to her. She points out that she and Paul aren’t people writing a letter to him to try and get a piece of his fortune but instead that Paul, his own flesh and blood, is in real danger.
For foreshadowing on who Getty has become, we cut to nine years earlier where Getty is explaining to his young grandson that everything has a price. To his own son, John Paul Getty II (Buchan), he explains why he was never home. He had a business to run and he couldn’t be ‘weighed down’ with family. Pay close attention to the wonderful dialogue in the script regarding money and who Getty considered himself to be. Plummer is priceless. The film originally had Kevin Spacey cast in the role of Getty but after he was accused of sexual misconduct, Spacey was replaced with Plummer who seemed so perfectly cast you can’t imagine Scott ever had someone else in mind. Plummer’s stone face and cold heart, when it comes to what should be an easy decision to make, were almost frightening.
Getty gives a reason why he has decided not to pay to get his grandchild back. The main reason is that he has fourteen grandchildren and if he pays for one, they may all be kidnapped. During this period, he buys millions of dollars’ worth of collectibles that appreciate in value, but people aren’t profitable so therefore expendable. Getty does allow Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg) his assistant, an ex-spy who specializes in negotiations, to help try and retrieve the boy from the kidnappers without it costing Getty a penny. Wahlberg and Williams have great chemistry. This chemistry builds with the stress of her plight and a relationship between them builds with the stress of her plight. It continues throughout the rest of the story when Chase shows more feeling toward what she’s going through than Getty does. Time goes by and the kidnappers get more and more anxious. For the audience, the tension increases with every one of their unmet demands. The price is dropped yet still Getty refuses to pay. One of the kidnappers shows warmth for the boy but even this doesn’t save him from getting an ear removed.
Scott does a sensational job of juggling the story of desperate kidnappers, the frightened abducted youngster and almost despondent mother who, in dire straits, still hangs on to hope that she can get through to Scrooge. She never cries for Getty, instead, illustrates for him how Paul having the Getty name is what has put him in danger and that Getty, himself, has some responsibility to help him.
All the Money in the World is definitely one of the best pictures of the year and Plummer’s performance is easily one of the best of the year, as well. It comes out today, Christmas 2017, and I recommend you see it as a gift to yourself.