Thursday, 19 April 2018

Review #1,325: 'All the Money in the World' (2017)

It wouldn't be fair to Ridley Scott's latest film to dwell too much on the revolting allegations that came out regarding Kevin Spacey and his sexually aggressive behaviour, yet the 80 year-old's reaction to the news and subsequent quick-thinking led to one of the most impressive aspects of All the Money in the World. Filming had already wrapped with Spacey in the lead donning heavy prosthetic makeup, but Scott quite rightly opted to remove the disgraced actor from the final product entirely, save for one scene in which his face is digitally replaced. Scenes were re-shot in an astonishing nine days, with Scott's initial first choice Christopher Plummer now playing the role of tycoon J. Paul Getty.

The result is not a film that appears to be quickly patched together, but one that seamlessly pieces together the old footage with the new. As Getty, you will believe that Plummer was present for the duration. He effortlessly balances Getty's occasional playfulness with his more tyrannical and stubborn sides, and he cuts an impenetrable yet enigmatic figure. Questions surrounding his refusal to pay his grandson's ransom when the 16 year-old is kidnapped in Rome forms the film's biggest mystery. Is he concerned that coughing up the dough will only inspire the kidnapping of more vulnerable heirs to vast fortunes? Does he believe that John Paul Getty III (played by Charlie Plummer, no relation) arranged the whole thing himself to get a slice of the action? Or is he simply a stingy old man, seeing no reason to spend a dime on something he sees as a bad business deal?

At the time, oil-rich Getty was not only the richest man on the planet, but the richest man there had ever been. It would seem that he never invested without the promise of a return. The old coot spends much of his time in dark, grandiose rooms within his spectacular mansion, pouring over the latest figures as if every cent must be accounted for. When he is informed that his favourite yet wayward grandchild has disappeared, his eyes never leave the books. We are informed via flashback that Getty III's parents, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) and John Paul Getty Jr. (Andrew Buchan), divorced years earlier due to the latter's drug abuse, with the mother receiving full custody. This, in J. Paul's eyes, was a betrayal, and possibly the first time he has lost something he couldn't simply throw money at. There's also the possibility that malice may be driving the stinking-rich old man's complete disinterest in paying what is a small sum in the context of his vast fortune. It takes the arrival of a severed ear make him re-consider.

Like many of Scott's recent efforts, All the Money in the World has its flaws, albeit far fewer than the likes of Robin Hood or Alien: Covenant. If there is a blemish on what is a stellar cast, its Mark Wahlberg as Getty's former CIA operative adviser Fletcher Chace. While everybody else disappears into their role, he can only muster his Boston everyman act and sticks out like a sore thumb. For a film that initially takes its time developing the characters and their backgrounds, it can't help but introduce tired tropes which didn't occur in real life, such as the sympathetic kidnapper Cinquanta (Romain Duris) and a climax involving a desperate chase through the streets. Still, Scott manages to keep us engrossed in the story, ramping up the tension with a frantic pace whether you know how it played out in real life or not. This is the director back to his The Martian best, and how he cannot seem to replicate this quality when he diverts into the Alien franchise is a head-scratcher. And  Christopher Plummer is truly exceptional.

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher PlummerMark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer, Timothy Hutton
Country: USA

Rating: ****

Tom Gillespie

All the Money in the World (2017) on IMDb

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