Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World is marred by controversy. This is a film that once starred actor Kevin Spacey and, for darn good reasons, was cut out of the film and replaced by Christopher Plummer. This film was on the verge of not being complete by year’s end until they found Plummer and re-shot this thing over Thanksgiving break. Talk about cutting it close. However, you’d never notice this film went through extensive re-shoots and that Plummer had to put in overtime work to replace Spacey. Heck, I even think this is more Plummer’s role than Spacey’s, as the 88-year-old actor brought enough wit and charisma to carry what is a decent film about greed and family.
Michelle Williams plays Gail Harris, wife to John Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan), and the film opens in Rome where we see her son Paolo (Charlie Plummer) roaming the streets at night. The film’s ominous tone is obvious and, eventually, something bad happens: Paolo gets kidnapped and taken far away to a remote location. Cinquanta (Romain Duris) leads this kidnapping group and holds the Getty boy captive while waiting for a ransom check to be sent. He knows the boy’s family has money, seeing as how his grandfather and oil-giant J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) is the richest man in the world.
This film is certainly gripping in moments, and we see Williams at her best. Her face is covered in despair, tears flowing from cheek-to-cheek as she conveys a strong motherly figure willing to do anything for her son after going through a rough divorce. She is the glue this film needed as it ventured into its last half and especially when it crescendos during its climax. It only helps that Romain Duris brings his usual acting chops, this time taking on an Italian accent. To be fair, I almost forgot that he’s a French actor. Duris falls into the role of Cinquanta who surprisingly provides Paolo with a fatherly figure. The film recognizes this isn’t a swan song, though, with Ridley not holding back on his recent trend of “humans are bad people.”
Greed is in this film’s DNA, and Plummer is wonderful in his role as Getty. His character is defined in a conversation with his right-hand man and ex-special agent Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg). Getty says the only thing that would make him comfortable is more money — you know, on top of the billions he’s already earned. The dude is the richest man in the world, and he isn’t satisfied. Scott uses him to paint a picture of the ugly side of capitalism, as if I needed a reminder.
There’s also a beautiful sense of location in this film, as well, with each shot revealing more and more of Italy. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski is no stranger to working with Scott, and the effortless sequencing of shots plays to this film’s tone.
While Scott and writer David Scarpa often apply social commentary, this film feels as if it doesn’t take itself seriously. And that’s what makes All the Money in the World work, for the most part. Daniel Pemberton‘s score feels out-of-place in some instances and almost comical, but once the film hits its stride, I realized this is the goal. Scott doesn’t want to make a groundbreaking film — he just wants a compelling kidnapping tale that is able to dabble in moments of fun.
However, the weakest moments are those spearheaded by Mark Wahlberg. Listen, I don’t mind Wahlberg (go watch Shooter if you haven’t already) but his role is so vanilla. It’s borderline unnecessary, and in what felt like a long stretch of time without Wahlberg towards the beginning of the third act, it felt as if his disappearance didn’t matter. His delivery is very safe and straight-edged. He doesn’t venture out of his single beat of a heartfelt ex-special agent who takes an interest in Harris’ son’s safety. Another downer was Charlie Plummer’s performance, which wasn’t too compelling. There are definitely enough chances for him to win me over. I just couldn’t buy into the pain and desperation he tried to convey., and it doesn’t help that he’s somehow this amazing pyrotechnic that can create projectile sticks of fire.
There are glaring moments of Scott-isms, including 1,000 newspapers flying in the wind while everything moves in slow-mo and even the swirling snow as young Paolo and his grandfather walk through the Getty estate. I giggled at Scott flexing his muscle and, hey, it worked. It wasn’t overly distracting, although I’m of the mind that maybe the rest of the film would’ve benefited from more of his voice.
What did catch me off-guard is the first act where the rapid pace has the film jumping to multiple locations and different years. If you don’t have a swift mind and memory, you may forget where the heck our cast of characters ended up. There’s lots of ground to cover to introduce why in the world Paolo would get kidnapped. The jarring shift in pace once the story becomes grounded is welcoming, as I simply didn’t want a two-hour film with location jumping.
The predictable plot isn’t enough to distract from the chemistry Williams and Duris share — even though they only have phone calls together. Both play off their characters’ weakness and equal love for their children. Duris’ character even says in one instance to Paolo, “If it were my kids, I would do anything for them.” What Cinquanta thought was going to be an easy ransom for Getty’s favorite grandchild — the film doesn’t hold back on propping up Paolo as the favorite — turned into a tale of two uncanny people who eventually form a bond. It’s a worthwhile adventure that proves Scott can step away from sci-fi and traverse back to reality.
I was treated to an advanced screening of this film for purpose’s of this review thanks to Sony and Allied Integrated Marketing. ❤
All the Money in the World is rated R, runs 2 hours and 12 minutes and opens nationwide on Dec. 25, 2017.