All the Money in the World is directed by Ridley Scott and is based on John Pearson's 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty. The film stars Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, and Romain Duris.
The elephant in the room while writing a review of Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World is the movie originally having Kevin Spacey in the cast, who was set to star as J. Paul Getty, until the emergence of multiple sexual misconduct allegations against Spacey got him booted from the project. Christopher Plummer was recast in the role, reshooting all of Spacey's scenes just a month before the film's theatrical release. How the film would have turned out had Spacey not been forced to drop off the face of the Earth is anyone's guess, but as it turns out, All the Money in the World turned out A-OK. In fact, Christopher Plummer turns out to be the best part of the whole movie.
Based on the 1995 book by author John Pearson about the heirs of British oil industrialist J. Paul Getty, All the Money in the World is the story of the kidnapping of Getty's 16 year old grandson John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher Plummer). The kidnappers demand a ransom of $17 million, but John Paul's mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), is not able to pay the ransom. Gail travels to meet with J. Paul Getty, at the time the world's wealthiest private citizen, in hopes that he will help her pay the ransom. Unfortunately, J. Paul Getty turns out to be a cheapskate, refusing to cooperate with Gail and pay the ransom for her. The media quickly picks up on the story, and Gail enlists the help of Getty Oil negotiator and former CIA operative Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg) to investigate the case and bring her son to freedom.
Of course J. Paul Getty is not going to just say yes and pay the ransom right away. The movie would be 20 minutes long if that was the case. Even though J. Paul Getty has his own reasons for not wanting to pay the ransom, on top of him acting frugal and unsympathetic, it would seem, at least on paper, that Ridley Scott would have to find a way to pad the movie, as there's only so many times that Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg can say, "Please?" or go into a spiel about how there are more important things in life than money. Padding is the absolute last thing thing you want in a kidnapping thriller, and, unfortunately, there is some padding here, which we'll get into a little bit later.
The question that I'm sure everyone is wondering is, "What makes All the Money in the World an Oscarbait film?" Well, to start with, the movie is inspired by true events, so check that box off right away. Secondly, but perhaps more importantly, the dismissal of Spacey from the project allowed the film to go right in line with the emergence of the #MeToo and the 'Time's Up' movements, both of which were an integral part of this year's Oscars ceremony. The Academy Awards figured they should give All the Money in the World a pat on the back for how quickly they filled the hole left by Spacey, as if the quick recasting and reshooting with Christopher Plummer was the film's way of standing up to sexual harassment and misconduct, not allowing itself to be scrapped because of the wrongdoings of one person. And I know that really sounds like a stretch, but in all honesty, how could it not be a factor in the movie getting at least a few nominations?
- I am going to flip-flop my high points and low points in this review, because I will feel much better addressing my highs for this movie after I discuss its lows. The main low in All the Money in the World is how dull the movie is during its first 40-45 minutes. Next to nothing happens outside of the physical act of the kidnapping, the only thing to get us by being Christopher Plummer acting as a slightly narcissistic J. Paul Getty who doesn't believe himself to be the cold-hearted money hoarder that he actually is. After we get our introductions of Gail and Fletcher, Scott struggles to find much of anything for the two of them to do outside of talking to Getty in n effort to create character development, which ends up being rather sleep-inducing. This brings me back to that padding thing I was talking about a bit earlier; the plot gets stuck in mud after John Paul Getty III is kidnapped and all of the characters get introduced. When it's clear that J. Paul Getty won't pay the ransom, at that point, only something drastic will be able to move the plot along, and Ridley Scott puts this drastic move off far longer than he should.
- Eventually, Ridley Scott unleashes his full directorial powers and transforms the movie into the exciting kidnapping thriller that the movie should have been from the get-go. In almost the blink of an eye, the plot becomes snappy and totally forward-thinking, so much so that by the time the end credits roll, you might want to forgive Scott completely for those boring, opening 45ish minutes. There's enough grisly violence to remind you that Ridley Scott has always had a talent for depicting grisly violence, and with the talented bunch that Scott gets to work with here, he is able to come through when he finally realizes he has a thriller on his hands.
- The great thing about Christopher Plummer's performance is how well he is able to show off the two extremes of J. Paul Getty's character in this movie: the stingy and frustrating money snob and the wise old grandpa who has lessons to teach to those younger than himself. The hardest part is going back and forth between this two-faced approach, but that's exactly what Plummer does, as he seamlessly goes from rich snob in one scene to wise grandpa in the next scene. In fact, Plummer is sometimes required to play both extremes in the exact same scene, such as a scene later on when Getty meets with Gail to discuss the possibility of taking out a loan to help pay for the ransom. Plummer is always amusing to watch throughout the film, and while I will never be able to say how good Kevin Spacey would have been in the role, Plummer proved to be a worthy substitute.
So thankfully, All the Money in the World is able to shake free of its dullness present in the first 40-45 minutes and quickly convert itself into a gritty thriller that shows off Ridley Scott's directing prowess, with a top-notch performance by Christopher Plummer serving as the one constant that holds everything together. And while the movie uses its last-minute changes as a slap in the face to Kevin Spacey, and thus, the movie thinking it has a say in the #MeToo and 'Time's Up' movement(s), there's not quite enough under the surface to justify this movie being anything more than a kidnapping thriller that;s rooted in historical events. That won't stop the movie from at least trying to be Oscarbait. Whether you want to think of All the Money in the World as Oscarbait or not, I have a hard time believing that anyone but the most die-hard of Ridley Scott fans will remember this movie a few years down the line. Who knows? Maybe I'll turn out to be wrong. Ridley Scott, even at the ripe age of 80, hasn't lost any if his touch for directing films, especially thrillers. All the Money in the World is at the end of the day a successful Ridley Scott thriller, even if it that success comes in the form of just three fourths of a thriller.
Recommend? Yes. Don't let the Kevin Spacey story deter you from watching this at all.
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