In what has been a somewhat whirlwind few months in Hollywood, one of the films that have been most heavily impacted by the ongoing sexual harassment scandal, is Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World, which had initially featured Kevin Spacey in one of the leading roles. He was since replaced by Christopher Plummer, and against all odds, Scott had delivered the film on time and ready for the forthcoming award’s season. You can see why he sought so fervently to do so, for this is a film with big Oscar potential, in what is a quite remarkable story being told by one of the industry’s most reliable, and resourceful storytellers.
The role that Plummer has undertaken is that of J. Paul Getty, the richest man in the world, building an empire for himself through oil. Shrewd he may be, compassionate he isn’t – having never donated to charity, and even with over a billion to his name, is always chasing a bargain. So when his grandson Paul (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped in Italy, at the hands of Cinquanta (Romain Duris) – he is reluctant to pay the 17m ransom fee, still striving for a bargain, and a tax-deductible one at that.
Refusing to budge, Paul’s mother Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) is desperate to get her son back home safely, and locks horns with her embittered father-in-law, pleading with him to part with some of his cash to ensure the return of her child. But while he doesn’t give her money, he does provide the services of Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to assist, who accompanies Gail as they travel to Rome to sort out this messy affair. But time is ticking on, and if they don’t figure something out soon, Paul may never be returned.
Though there is undoubtedly a fair amount of artistic licence in order to dramatise this narrative, it’s still such a striking true story that at times is hard to believe. Scott ensures the pace is maintained throughout and you never once feel the lengthy run-time, as the tale is compelling and absorbing from the moment it starts right until the very end. There’s also an intriguing blurring the line between good and evil, as while J. Paul Getty is portrayed in a somewhat reprehensible, unsavoury light at times, we see shades of humanity in kidnapper Cinquanta, as we struggle to determine quite who the greediest of the two may be.
Given there were last-minute reshoots taking place, you couldn’t be fooled for anticipating Plummer’s turn to be more of a mere cameo, and yet that’s not the case at all, for Getty is a true supporting lead, which plenty of screen-time, which makes Scott and Plummer’s accomplishments even more commendable. The latter excels in the role, and deserves much credit. The character have may have all the money in the world, but the actor had no real time at all. That said, he is fresh off the back of playing Scrooge in Dickens’ biopic The Man Who Invented Christmas, and when embodying Getty, it’s fair to say he wouldn’t have had to shift his mindset very much at all, as two characters who have a rather lot in common.
Naturally, it is Williams who steals the show, with a wonderfully nuanced turn as a mother wanting one thing and one thing only; her son to live. But it’s not just the performances that stand out, as the aesthetic is a gratifying one, and given the nature of this tale, and it’s glorious 1970s Rome setting, Scott adopts tropes of the film noir genre, with a truly magnificent closing sequence set on the quiet Italian streets at night that is more than worthy of the captivating acts that had preceded it.
All the Money in the World is released on January 5th.