Money Monster is a 2016 thriller film directed by Jodie Foster and stars George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O'Connell.
George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a TV personality who runs a show called Money Monster which gives financial advice on commerce and Wall Street to potential investors. During the middle of a show, a man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) sneaks onto the set, pulls out a gun, and takes Gates hostage. Kyle reveals that he invested his entire life's savings into a company called IBIS that Gates recommended on a previous show . Investors in the company lost all of their money, and now Kyle demands answers for what happened. With the help of the show's director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), Gates tries to stay alive and help Kyle get the answers he seeks.
Aside from the strong performances from George Clooney and Julia Roberts, Money Monster works because of its pacing. The film wastes absolutely no time in getting itself going. Once the key is in ignition, the movie drives fast and furious. Clooney and O'Connell go back and forth throughout the lion's share of the movie's runtime, and the situation they are in is like a ticking time bomb. You don't know when that bomb will go off, but you know it could at any second, and you're afraid of when it could happen. If and when that bomb finally does go off, it's going to be messy.
- The fast pacing. Budwell breaks onto the set just about 10-15 minutes into the film, and it never slows down from there. Every bit of dialogue and every character interaction is able to propel the plot forward in some way. There's never a moment wasted for pointless conversation or irrelevant humor. Something new always springs up to keep our attention and keep the train on the right track.
- The suspense/tension. Kyle is constantly making threats at Gates, who keeps trying various tactics to stall for time and prevent Kyle from reaching his breaking point. Kyle also forces the show to stay live on the air, and hundreds of spectators watch from TV screens, which serves as a microcosm for us, the invisible spectators. We as the audience feel almost the same way as these spectators within the film. Neither they nor we want to look away, because if we do, even for just one split second, we could miss Gates getting his head blown off or miss him attempting to escape. It's a heart-pounding, anxiety-filled thrill rush for us, but for those watching within the imaginary walls of the film, it's horrifying, can't-miss TV. This is no Hitchcock suspense, but at times, it feels pretty close.
- Money Monster unfortunately wastes a grand amount of potential to truly explore and dissect its meritorious themes. Without giving away specific plot points, the film bluntly communicates to us cliched messages that merely sum up to, "People are greedy" or "The rich only want to get richer." Using film to tackle the inner workings of the money and finance world can be tricky business, and sadly, Money Monster steps into the pitfall where all it really tells us is that money can drive people to do crazy things, which is a life lesson we all learn sooner or later.
- The limitations of Julia Roberts's character. Roberts works well with what the script asks her to do, but when stripped down to its basic elements, her character merely talks and spectates. There's little to no "action" she is required to do. By action, I'm not talking about gun fights or car chases, but that Roberts doesn't perform any kind of hands-on task. She simply talks to George Clooney through a hidden mic, and keeps telling him, "Say this to Kyle." or "Go here and do this." She remains stationary for the majority of the film, which feels incompatible with the fast pace.
In conclusion, Money Monster is fast-paced, exciting, and will surely give you the thrill rush you hope to get. There's definitely a lot of potential left on the table, but the film still has strong enough qualities to get a thumbs up.
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