A surprisingly thrilling movie that is expertly made and topped off with great performances.
At first glance, it would appear that Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World does not have a premise that screams excitement and drama to many movie-goers. The film, however, is an unexpectedly thrilling watch, thanks to some dramatic additions and expert filmmaking on the part of the 80-year-old director.
The film is based on the 1973 real-life kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), more commonly called Paul, who was a grandson to the wealthiest man in history at that point in time, Jean Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer). Frugal at heart, Getty Snr refuses to pay the $17 million ransom demanded by his grandson’s captors, much to the dismay of his former daughter in law and Paul’s mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams). However, rather than doing nothing, Getty Snr tasks former CIA man and current employee Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) with finding young Paul alive but demanding he does so at minimum cost.
All the Money in the World jumps between the perspectives of the investigating Chase, the kidnapped Paul and his desperate mother, Gail. At its centre, however, is the tight-fisted Getty Snr whose outright refusal to pay his grandson’s ransom causes far more grief for all the other character than necessary. The scenes in which Getty so easily shrugs off the significance of Paul’s kidnapping are some of the best in the film, and this is in no small part down to Christopher Plummer’s excellent portrayal of the billionaire. The veteran actor uses his full range here, successfully capturing Getty’s composure and cunning whilst also showing his selfishly ruthless nature.
Charlie Plummer, not related to the aforementioned Christopher, is also great as the captured Paul. His scenes in captivity are definitely some of the tensest in the film and they are enhanced by the shady character of Cinquanta, played by Roman Duris, who develops a strange relationship with the teenage hostage. Paul’s treatment is hard to stomach at times, but the character isn’t completely helpless and becomes much easier to root for as the film goes on.
Despite the two Gettys being the driving force of the film’s story though, its Michelle Williams’ Gail Harris who proves to be the true main character, and, in a film about billionaires, by far the most relatable. She finds herself tortured by the seemingly endless pursuit of her son whilst equally frustrated by the stubbornness of his grandfather who seems intent on making the process of getting Paul back all the more difficult for her. Williams is by far the most impressive performer here and she completely sells both Gail’s determination and strong-will in the face of those against her.
In terms of its direction, All the Money in the World is yet another brilliantly crafted film from Ridley Scott who has taken what on paper could have been a very dull affair and turned it into a high-stakes thriller with some memorable sequences. The film is excellently lit by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski who uses a lot of low lighting, particularly around Getty Snr’s England Estate, to give the film a darker, more dramatic feel. The seventies esthetic too is also wonderfully realised with great attention to detail found in everything from the costume choices to the set design.
It is impossible though to talk about the film’s production without also mentioning the decision to have Christopher Plummer replace Kevin Spacey in early November. With large portions of the film having to be re-shot and edited, it is a testament to Scott and his dedicated crew that they were able to change the film within the short time that they had and have the new footage blend in so seamlessly.
A surprisingly enthralling kidnapping story then, expect All the Money in the World to be a contender this awards season with strong performances from Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer as well as excellent direction on the part of Ridley Scott making it well worth the watch.
All the Money in the World, directed by Ridley Scott, is distributed in the UK by Sony Pictures, certificate 15