All the Money in the World review: Ridley Scott & Christopher Plummer save the day
Director Ridley Scott deserves many an accolade for resurrecting All the Money in the World at the 11th hour. A looming release date of 22 December and a lead actor Kevin Spacey, is one of the many high-profile Hollywood men accused of sexual harassment and assault. Scott made an executive decision and out was Spacey. In came his replacement, Christopher Plummer.
Scott could have shelved the film. He could have even waited till the controversy surrounding Spacey died down. He could have just scrapped the movie completely. Instead, Scott decided to completely erase Spacey from the film. Christopher Plummer stepped in and gave one of the best performances of his career. In a remarkable nine-day shooting schedule in Italy and Britain, the movie was brought alive and the release date kept intact.
It's important to start with behind the scenes story. After watching Plummer deliver a fine performance as the legendarily and horrible billionaire oil magnate Paul Getty, you'd wish that he'd been cast in the first place. If you didn't know Spacey was a part of the film in the first place, you wouldn't be able to tell from the seamless transition that Scott has somehow pulled off.
While Scott will be revered for his heroics, the film most probably won't be. Despite Plummer stepping in and performing admirably, the supporting cast doesn't do justice to a spine-chilling drama about an unhappy family in which the grandson is kidnapped. Michelle Williams is listless and Mark Wahlberg doesn't belong in a role where he hands aren't being used to shoot bullets. He just constantly looks irritated. Only kidnapper Cinquanta (played by Romain Duris) is able to portray some human emotion on screen.
All the Money in the World is based on a true story. It's based on the events from 1973 when John Paul Getty III was kidnapped in Rome at the age of just 16. He is the grandson of the legendary oil magnate Paul Getty, the then richest man in the world. Paul, as the grandson liked to be called, was taken to a mountain hideout. From there on, it's simply a story of how to get the boy back alive. The kidnappers get in touch with Paul's mother, Gail Harris (played by Michelle Williams, to extract ransom. Gail, divorced from her husband, John Paul Getty II, reached out to the elder Getty, who outrightly refused.
Getty famously said, “I have 14 other grandchildren, and if I pay one penny now I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.”
The son, played by Charlie Plummer is plunged into the nightmare and delivers a convincing enough performance in his few minutes of screen time. While the scenes of his captivity - in the Italian countryside and then with a mafia - are gruelling, there are one too many unnecessary scenes that take away from the intensity. Especially the close-up scene where a doctor is hacking off Paul's ear.
The movie is charming in its execution but too mechanical in the set up of the high-stakes kidnapping at its centre. Scott just lets cinematographer Dariusz Wolski take over. The movie builds at a slow pace, leaving all the action to the latter stages of the movie. The pacing of the film and editing is imperfect and twenty minutes could easily be hacked off, rather than an ear. Even the scenes with Italian actors, part of the kidnapping team, could have been done away. What one wished for was more of the showdowns between Gail and the elder Getty. The intensity in those was just right.
The slow burn, as they call it, doesn't work. It's got everything one would want, grim face-offs, desperate phone calls, threats, an unmoving billionaire and more. Despite this, the movie itself fails to move the needle.
The movie see-saws between an action drama and a psychodrama and that is a shame. What could have been tight-knit and enthralling, turns into a long-drawn 132-minute film? When Scott trains his camera upon Getty, ensconced in his mansion, you get to see the true hero of the film. Scott does make a point about how the rich and famous are devoid of any humanity. That's what the viewer wanted more of.
More of that and less of the captivity and this might have just been getting much more acclaim than it is. Still, the movie is beautifully styled and keeps you ticking for most of the 132 minutes.
Should you watch the movie?
Yes. For Scott's masterful surgery and Plummer saving the day. For the seamless transition from Spacey to Plummer, this must be seen on the big screen.
Still, if you can't catch it now and happen to see it on the television later in the year, you won't be disappointed.