All the Money in the World tells the true story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III in 1973 and the subsequent back and forth between the kidnappers and Jean Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer). All the Money in the World has been through the grinder so to speak. With Kevin Spacey being replaced at the last second when allegations of his past surfaced, the studio (or director Ridley Scott) forked over ten million dollars, added two weeks of reshoots, working eighteen hour days to add Christopher Plummer and physically remove Kevin Spacey from every frame of this film.
Quite frankly, I don’t know why they cast Spacey, to begin with. The trailers that had already been shot and released showed an unrecognizable Spacey underneath gobs of pancaked makeup and prosthetics that made him look ridiculous. He is a fine actor but I applaud Scott for making the right choice, in the end. Plummer should have been cast from the start. He is perfect for this role. At 88 and still acting, Plummer nails his character from the very first scene. Somehow, Spacey just did not look right for this role and in fact, he is too young to play the eccentric billionaire who at the time of the kidnapping was in his 70’s. Spacey is a mere 58 years old.
Regardless, director Ridley Scott has made an excellent film with All the Money in the World. This is a smartly written, tight and fascinating thriller with some great acting not just by Plummer who has received most of the accolades, thus far. Special consideration should be given the Michelle Williams who is phenomenal. This is some of the finest acting she has ever done and she has done a lot of great acting. She plays the mother of the kidnapped Getty, Gail Harris. Mrs. Harris was not a Getty by birth but married John Paul Getty II. She insisted on trying to live on their own without the money and the name of the Getty’s. But that is not how it worked out.
Broke and needing a break John Paul Getty II moves his family to Europe to help his father in the oil business. Years later, addicted to drugs and having multiple affairs the two divorced and it could not have been more contentious. JP II insists on full custody and Gail was pretty much pushed out of the family. Probably a good thing in the long run. The Gettys seem to a bunch of loons so the less she saw of them the better. But when her son is kidnapped and the ransom set at seventeen million dollars Gail has but little choice to go and ask Jean Paull Getty for the money. He refuses, citing that if he paid every kidnapper that came along he would have fourteen other kidnappers to contend with as he had many children and grandchildren.
Michelle Williams as Gail is simply amazing as she navigates the world of the Gettys and the kidnappers all while trying to maintain her sanity, as any parent would. She is tough, smart yet still human and it seems she is the only one who is taking the kidnappers seriously. Jean Paul Getty brings in his “facilitator” so to speak, Fletcher Chase, an ex-CIA operative who has now hitched his wagon to the Gettys. I do not know if Fletcher Chase was an actual person or a fictional character added to the film for some spice. Regardless, Mark Wahlberg is excellent in this role. He is not some Superman, flying in to save the day. He is there merely to make sure the Getty’s interests are protected.
Director Scott takes something like this and works his magic as a director. He shows there is no genre he can’t handle. All the Money in the World is a graceful and stylish thriller with a script by David Scarpa and John Pearson who also wrote the book that this film is based on. Scott and the writers have a good grasp on the kidnapping but flesh out the characters exceedingly well and make this film about the people, not just the events. Scott packs this film with lots of details about the kidnapping, the kidnappers and the behind-the-scenes squabbling but he does so in such a manner that I was riveted. In lesser more inexperienced hands, All the Money in the World could have been as interesting as reading instructions for a toaster oven and no one wants to see that.
All the Money in the World – **** out of 5
All the Money in the World – Rated R for language, nudity, violence and some gore
All the Money in the World – Runtime is 132 minutes
All the Money in the World is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations nearest you.