ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenwriter: David Scarpa, based on the book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and
Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson
Runtime: 132 mins.
Australian Release Date: 4 January 2018
Previewed at: Roadshow Theatrette, Pyrmont, Sydney, on 18 December 2017.
Octogenarian director Ridley Scott, he of Alien and Blade Runner fame (plus many more), has turned his keen eye to a famous kidnapping case in his latest film, All the Money in the World. The oil magnate John Paul Getty was, at the time of the crime, one of the richest men on the planet but he famously refused to pay a ransom for the return of his grandson. Almost as famous is the story of the making of this movie - Kevin Spacey was originally cast to play Getty and had completed all his scenes when the recent scandal about sexual harassment in the film industry blew up after the Weinstein allegations emerged; when dark rumblings about Spacey's behaviour also came out, Scott decided to replace him with Christopher Plummer and reshoot Spacey's footage, at a cost of 10 million US dollars. That’s a big chunk of change, considering the original budget was only 40 mill., relatively small for a Hollywood flick. Now, with the release of All the Money in the World, we can judge for ourselves whether or not it was worth the effort... and the money.
It was in 1973 in Rome when the 16-year- old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher) was abducted from the street one night by kidnappers from the south of Italy. When the boy's mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) eventually heard from a gang member, Cinquanta (Romain Duris), he demanded 17 million dollars, an impossible amount for her to raise on her own. As we learn in flashback, she had divorced Getty senior’s son (Andrew Buchan) some years earlier, gaining custody of the children but no cash or entitlement to the Getty millions, so was not a rich woman. Desperate, she turned to old man Getty, who opined that if he paid up every other member of the family would be at greater risk of kidnap. Instead he assigned a Getty Oil fixer and ex-CIA man, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), to help liaise with the crooks. Chase was initially sceptical of the whole case, suspecting that it might be some sort of scam that the young Getty had concocted himself, but when a part of the boy's anatomy arrived at a Rome newspaper office he realised that this was the real deal. The rest of the film deals with the events that followed, ultimately leading to JPG3's release (this is no spoiler, it's history), but a lot happened before that happy circumstance took place. A lot.
In my opinion, Scott's decision to replace Spacey with Plummer was correct, even it was forced upon him by fortuitous occurrences. I suspect that Spacey would have brought the kind of malevolence to the role that he imparts to Francis Underwood in House of Cards, whereas Plummer portrays Getty as monstrous but not evil - the old man just valued possessions above people and couldn't see why that was wrong - and it's a more accurate approach. Williams is utterly convincing as the despairing, determined mother, keeping it all together on the surface while paddling madly to stay afloat. She's Oscar-worthy. Wahlberg, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be operating at his usual level; it's as though he couldn't quite grasp the measure of Chase, and flounders as a result. Duris is terrific as Cinquanta, the conflicted mafioso who comes to feel sorry for his young charge, but they really should have done something about his teeth - Calabrian peasants don't have pearly-white choppers like his! Scarpa's script could have done with a bit of a trim, too. It suffers from the longueurs in the mid-section and, at well over two hours, feels drawn out. Still, these are relatively minor quibbles when taken overall. All the Money in the World is a credit to the indefatigable Ridley Scott and his editor, Claire Simpson, for the extraordinarily adept (and fast) way they managed to insert Plummer and co's new work Into what was, essentially, a finished film. It’s worth a king's ransom.