All The Money In The World Review
I think most of us would like to be rich. I mean, why wouldn’t you? You can have a nice big house, a flash car to go to work in and go on holidays to places that can safely be described as paradises. It looks and sounds like a good life. But movies have always told us that being rich is not as good as it looks. That while you may get all the material things you want, you may lose many things on the way including the people you love or even your soul. It’s a fair enough message and one that smacks true if you ever look into the real life stories of Lottery winners. But how well does All The Money In The World tackle the issue of being rich?
While in Rome, John Paul Getty III(Charlie Plummer, Lean on Pete), heir to the Getty fortune, is kidnapped by a gang who demand a ransom of $17m. With her mother Gail (Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine) being unable to pay that ransom, she begs her estranged father-in-law and patriach of the Getty family Jean Paul (Christopher Plummer, Beginners) to pay the kidnappers.
Shall we tackle the elephant in the room then? The role of Jean Paul was going to be played by Kevin Spacey who of course had many serious allegations made against him towards the end of 2017. And by played I mean shot the movie and was part of all the advertising until those allegations came out. Because of the level of the allegations, they decided to recast the role with Christopher Plummer coming in at the last minute. While I respected the decision, I thought this might affect the movie. After all, surely there would be issues with the editing in of Plummer’s scenes and there might be some chemistry issues with having to work with a new actor so quickly. And maybe some anger on Michelle Williams part because she only got paid $80 per day for these reshoots. But no, Plummer is in fact the best part of the film. His performance is truly fantastic and his scenes all fit in great with the editing and chemistry all on point. It’s such a good performance that I can’t really think of Spacey being in this role.
It helps that all the strongest parts of the story revolves around Plummer’s character. The main conflict of the story is that Jean Paul Getty will not pay the ransom even though he can afford to do so as the richest man in the world. And everything good about the movie comes from how the movie deals with him and his wealth. Why he doesn’t pay the ransom makes sense on paper, he has many grandchildren and by paying the ransom he makes them all bigger targets, but there’s something about him which makes you think that even that may be a lie. That what really matters is his money and that he doesn’t really want to be parted from it. There are so many fantastic scenes with Getty talking about his money and why he is so rich that I can’t really pick out one. They are all brilliant and the highlights of the movie.
I’ve just spent a lot of time talking about how great Christopher Plummer is and all the scenes he is so let’s talk about Michelle Williams for a bit. She is fantastic as the mother of the kidnapped Paul Getty. She has that quiet resolve that so many strong women have but there’s always the feeling she’s on the edge of breaking down. That one thing could be the thing that just sends her over the edge and makes her an emotional mess. It’s another great performance from Michelle Williams who is quickly making herself into one of one of the best actors in Hollywood right now. She plays this role so well and makes Gail the real hero of the story.
And it’s a good job that Michelle Williams is on top form because otherwise you’d have to write off the lot of the movie. That’s because while the scenes about money are great, the ones not about money are less so. As you’d expect, the majority of the movie tackles the hostage drama as Gail tries to get her son back whether through Getty money or other means. And while there’s nothing wrong with these scenes, they are all well acted, well paced and well shot, there’s nothing particularly great about them either. They just go through all the motions that all hostage dramas do. All the great clichés are hit, the fake out death, the twists of where the hostage actually is, body parts being sent to the media, all of them are present. Nothing original, just the usual tropes.
What the movie is trying to do is make the negotiation for the hostage like the negotiation for a business. That’s why Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter) exists in this movie, he is the negotiator sent by Getty to try and get Paul back. He is the man who has made the deals which keep Getty rich and there’s a lot of scenes where they directly compare his methods for securing an oil rig in the Middle East and the safety of John Paul. It’s just that this idea is not presented very strongly. Wahlberg does act well in this movie but he needs more personality so his ideas can be presented better to the audience, much like the vibrant personality that the elder Getty has. This is where the movie fails because it makes a large part of the film fairly bland and missable.
All The Money In The World is worth watching simply because of Christopher Plummer’s performance. He is truly fantastic in this movie and was well worth being nominated for the Supporting Actor performance. Michelle Williams is worth watching as well as she is brilliant. But despite having a very good commentary on being rich and how to stay rich, the movie focuses more on a fairly bland hostage drama which just does a lot of the things you’ve seen in other hostage dramas. There’s plenty to enjoy but I can’t give it a hearty recommendation like I wish I could.