All the Money in the World
|Writer(s)||David Scarpa, John Pearson (based on his book)|
|Release Date||December 25, 2017|
In 1973, John Paul Getty III (called Paul throughout the film, played by Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped by the mafia and held for a $17 million dollar ransom. He is hoping that his grandfather will pay quickly and quietly. His grandfather, John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), is by far the richest man in the world. Having amassed a fortune of over a billion dollars in oil and art holdings. Unfortunately, Paul’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), has divorced Getty’s son, so she has no access to the family money. Even if she did, Getty has such a maniacally tight rein on the purse strings that when she pleads for his help, he refuses.
What the kidnappers hoped to be a three-day job turned into a six-month ordeal. With Getty trying to negotiate with his own daughter in law, offering and then refusing the ransom money at different times. He does send an ex-CIA operative in his employ, Fletcher Case (Mark Wahlberg), to get his grandson back. As inexpensively as possible. However, Getty’s chintzy nature is detrimental to his character. Ultimately, as the history books already tell us, young Paul Getty does come home, but he’s a broken shell.
What’s this film trying to say?
Not even family is enough for the man who has everything and still craves more. Christopher Plummer’s Getty is complex in his heartlessness, while Michelle Williams embodies an exasperated woman who just wants her son back. She’s a mother trying to appeal to the feelings of a corporate giant. She’s passed around, put on hold, and ignored, yet she’s the mother of the grandson of the company’s head. This film largely depicts the futility and impersonality of a gigantic corporation.
As Gail points out, her father-in-law makes at least $17 million per day just in bank interest. He could give the money without even feeling it. In fact, despite the grip he keeps on the money, he doesn’t even know how much he has, quipping that, “If you can count your money, you’re not a billionaire.” Even though he doesn’t know what he has, he knows he wants – he needs– more.
Ultimately, I’m not sure what the film wants to say about money and greed. Obviously, Getty is portrayed as a stone-cold miser, but he does love his grandson. His love for his grandchildren seems to be only in the service of solidifying his holdings through his bloodline. He extorts his daughter-in-law by offering the money for the ransom in exchange for full custody of his grandchildren. The man sees himself as a modern-day Hannibal, emperor of all he sees, and everyone else just gets in his way; he has a dynasty to create.
What about the performances in All the Money in the World?
Christopher Plummer is audaciously excellent. He effortlessly steps into the role of a cold-hearted ******* who we at one time hate and want to be. Obviously, much could be said (and has been by many others) about the shocking last-minute replacement of Kevin Spacey, but this switch has been pulled off without a hitch. I honestly don’t know how Ridley Scott did it in only eight days, but it’s seamless. Plummer deserves the nomination, though either Willem Dafoe or Sam Rockwell will take the win.
I actually expected a bit more from Michelle Williams. She’s obviously great here, but after Manchester By the Sea last year, I always hope to see her just knock everything out of the park.
Everyone else did their jobs well, but especially the kidnapper Cinquanta (Romain Duris). His relationship with Paul, whom he calls Paolo, is difficult on its own. He grows to care for his kidnapped charge, risking his life on multiple occasions to make sure the boy lives and goes free. He’s genuinely an engaging character and nearly as complex as Getty.
This is a tightly plotted thriller which keeps us engaged for the most part, although there are sections which are overlong or which don’t clearly exhibit time’s progress. Scott could have shaved twenty minutes off of this movie to keep the tension up, or given more exploration of Getty’s sphinxlike reasoning.
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Tyler is a teacher, librarian and the Co-host of The Geek Card Check Podcast. He has been a Film Critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018.