I went into this film with few expectations. I know you should not judge a book by its cover, but when you see the plot summary regarding a hostage situation starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney, you wonder if this film is just a money spinner. The first thing I thought is “why did they decide to both star in this film?”
The story starts with Lee Gates (George Clooney), who is the over-confident, arrogant host of a show called Money Monster in which he, in his own clown-like way, discusses forecasts and tips in the stock market. The show is directed by Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), who appears to have a love-hate relationship with Lee. The story starts with the studio putting in the preparations for a new live show. A lot of jokes are being thrown and then the show goes live. Then, all of a sudden, an apparent courier (Jack O’Connell) who did not get flagged by security enters the studio and pulls a gun out on Lee. He then forces Lee to put on a suicide bomb vest and demands that the studio keeps the show live on air. The reasoning behind this is unknown.
The film portrays the sad reality of the world that we live in today. Throughout the film, it shows the public watching the hostage situation on the news like it is a form of entertainment when in all seriousness it is a horrendous situation. You do not see moments of much panic from the public and they seem more entertained by what’s happening in front of them. In a nutshell, with the growing presence of social media and influential news channels, this film shows the problems with the relationship between society and the media in the world today.
Here is the problem with the film. Firstly the story is going at an extremely fast pace. You feel that the film is trying to get to the hostage scenario as quickly as possible. Secondly, from the moment the characters are introduced to the point of the hostage situation (which is not long by the way) you learn absolutely nothing about the characters to make you care. As an audience member, you do not care how this scenario will pan out and you are just hoping that the hostage situation is tense and keeps you hanging on until the end of the film. Finally, the storyline is absolutely bonkers – the reasoning behind the hostage situation is completely weak and the script is flimsy. If you put it into perspective earlier in the week I watched a thriller called Eye In the Sky which has a slow moving storyline and tentatively builds up the tension to the climax. Two different films, two different approaches, and I felt that only one worked.
The film wants to only portray a hostage situation live on air about money, throw a couple of well-known stars in there, and see how it plays out. Most of the story is shot in a studio with some of it seen from the perspective of the news channel, which is the most impressive thing about the film. You do not really care about the relationship between Lee and Patty and the start is a little shouty, with different people shouting here, there and everywhere. The person you are most interested in is the hostage-taker, because you are wondering what his actual objective is throughout the entire film; if he has a plan. Director Jodie Foster had a wonderful opportunity to provide depth in the film surrounding the problems with the media industry and the potential collateral damage it could cause. This opportunity is sorely missed. The film is fun but it misses key ingredients.
The first half of the film is quite poor, however it does get stronger as it reaches its climax. You are wondering right to the end what is going to happen, how is it going to happen and what will be the result of this hostage scenario. The film provides very unconvincing moments at times which is why you fail to take it seriously. There are no real moments of anguish or pain that you expect to feel from a hostage situation. In fact, in one of the serious moments, I could hear a couple of people in the audience laugh, and I am pretty sure it was not meant to be a funny moment.
As for the stars in the film, there is nothing in here that is worthy of an applause. You could argue that Jack O’Connell’s performance gets stronger as the film progresses. Unfortunately with Clooney, I was not convinced by the essence of his character because I was not sure what his personality was meant to be. As much as his persona is meant to be classy and sophisticated I do not feel that the script allowed him to become that person. Julia Roberts puts in the most warranted performance as you are most convinced by her acting throughout.
There are small moments in the film where you do take it more seriously, but by the end, you just end up going with the story and allowing it to guide you until the finale because the film is just fun and the storyline is bonkers.
Is it worth watching in the cinemas? No, but if you do happen to find it eventually on DVD, Netflix or whatever, then it is worth the watch. If you are looking for a mindless thriller with a bonkers storyline and an excuse to go to the cinema then go watch Money Monster.
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