Movie Review: All the Money in the World.
Ridley Scott crafts a character driven thriller with lots of character and only a few thrills.
Our final movie review of the year is the final wide release movie of the year. This kidnapping thriller based on true events is filled with memorable performances but generally fails to deliver much needed tension until almost too late. Those who’ve followed the sausage making of the film may be interested to see how Christopher Plummer, who replaced Kevin Spacey as J.P. Getty on short notice, acquits himself. For those looking for a solid thriller, All the Money in the World won’t likely get your heart racing.
All the Money in the World (2017).
The grandson of the richest man in the world, John Paul Getty, is kidnapped by organized crime and offered up for ransom. When the famously stingy Getty publicly refuses to pay a penny, the boy’s mother must scramble to secure his release with the aid of a former CIA operative on Getty’s payroll.
Titan of the Industry.
When details of Kevin Spacey’s disgrace became public, All the Money in the World went into hurried re-shoots to erase him from the picture. That’s no mean feat, seeing as he was playing the central character. Christopher Plummer, an early candidate for the role, came aboard and re-shot all of the Getty scenes just one month before the film released. One might think that such a rushed schedule might make the scenes feel unnatural. It’s a testament to Christopher Plummer that he not only integrates into the piece but becomes its strongest character. In his every scene and line he creates a living myth; a man as strange, inscrutable and alien to normalcy in every way as could be possible, who is nonetheless fascinating.
The best part of this film is the characters and the strong performances of its cast. Michelle Williams gives a great turn as Gail Harris, the estranged daughter-in-law of Getty and mother of the missing boy. I enjoyed her effervescent charm in The Greatest Showman, but here she is all iron. The drama of the first act is all in her struggle against the reclusive and eccentric Getty, and while they hardly appear on screen together, she plays against the monolith of Plummer’s performance expertly.
Mark Wahlberg is decent as the former CIA agent, mostly recycling his hard-nosed pragmatic cop routine from other films such as The Departed. Charlie Plummer plays the young captive and has some very nice interactions with Romain Duris, who plays the “good guy” kidnapper trying to get him to convince his family to pay. All around, this film relies on intricate character work and the cast gives Ridley Scott everything he asks for.
Yep, He’s Still Ridley Scott.
Director Ridley Scott tends to relish strong characters and their development during larger than life events. Maximus’ longing for domestic tranquility amidst a Roman power struggle. The camaraderie of the crew on most of his Alien movies. Mark Watney growing potatoes and carping about disco while he stuck on Mars. The meat Scott’s dramas rests on developing empathy with his characters as the whole world goes to shit around them. While this film delivers on memorable and sympathetic characters in spades, it never quite gets to the all-encompassing climactic drama that is needed to complete the narrative.
My biggest complaint about All the Money in the World is that the drama simmers for nearly two hours without ever reaching a boil. The family drama between Gail and Getty helps to create tension, but they have so little face to face interaction that it feels that not only Gail but the audience at well is being kept at arm’s length. Several times where the plot could have ratcheted up, Scott throws a cup of cold water into the pot in the form of segues and false starts. It’s not until the final 45 minutes that the events come to a head, and by then I’d lost a lot of interest in the piece.
All the Money in the World is a decent film that can’t quite catalyze into a great film. The acting is phenomenal, not just in light of the sudden re-shoots but as a whole. I find it hard to imagine the film with anyone but Plummer as Getty, he so dominates the role and the film. While the movie sags a bit in the middle, it does finally come to a head in a way that pays off many of the character arcs…if you can stay on board until the train finally pulls away from the station. I can’t say that I recommend this film for a visit to the theater; while Scott is always in keen control of the cinematography, there’s just not enough here to make the big screen experience necessary. When this comes around for rental, I think those who appreciate good characters in their drama will be rewarded by this film.