Masterful cinema auteur Sir Ridley Scott takes audiences inside a tumultuous and dangerous world of power, deception, money and lies in All the Money in the World, which chronicles the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and the infamous response of his grandfather, the legendary wealthy J. Paul Getty (Sir Christopher Plummer).
Rome, 1973. Wild child, trust fund teenager John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped in Rome and held for ransom for $17 million dollars. But when the demand is given to his grandfather, billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (Sir Christopher Plummer), the old man scoffs at the idea and refuses to pay the kidnappers a cent. Seemingly valuing his money and influence far more than his grandson’s life. John Paul’s mother Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) teams up with Getty’s chief of security and former CIA officer Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) in a desperate race to find the money and bring back John Paul….before it’s too late.
All the Money in the World is operatic filmmaking on an opulent and lavish big-screen canvas. Scott and his team chart the story of a doomed family who seemingly has everything, except for any notions of love, honesty or family values. LIke a Greek tragedy unfolding before you, All the Money in the World is a thumping story of crime and passion and focuses on the one man who stood in the way of it all. It was the true-crime story that took the world’s attention by storm, and you sincerely wait with baited breath as to every action that unfolds before you.
Headlining the cast in a phenomenally brave performance is Michelle Williams as Gail Harris, the ex-wife of Getty’s only son, who has lost himself to drugs and the lifestyle afforded to him by his father, and who upon learning of her son’s kidnapping goes to her father-in-law begging for help. Famously her father-in-law refused to pay the ransom because of its exuberant cost, and rather was only willing to pay it….after it had been negotiated to a point where it’s cost was tax deductible! With such forces against her Williams’ Harris is often overwhelmed and at her wits end with how she can get her son back, but her standing as a mother never lets her falter or fail. Williams performance is an exceedingly brave one, and she goes toe-to-toe with both Mark Wahlberg’s brash Fletcher Chase, the many lawyers and the vast layers of the Getty Oil Company and the old man himself. Williams performance is an exceedingly strong one and her presence in the film elevates to a very special height.
Standing next to her is Mark Wahlberg as J. Paul Getty’s head of security and former CIA operative Fletcher Chase. Exceedingly smart and completely business-like in his attention to detail and efforts, Chase is a master negotiator who has plenty of contacts in low places, but who is all in all a company man. This initially puts him at odds with Williams’ Harris, but as he sees the mounting stresses that Gail falls under and becomes disgusted with his employers lack of empathy he eventually becomes a strong ally to Harris and the two of them work to undermine Getty and get John Paul back. The character of Fletcher Chase is a completely different tune for Wahlberg, and it’s fun to see him playing against the type of his normal macho man image, as someone who is far more intellectual and cunning.
While All the Money in the World had considerable controversy attached to it in form of former star Kevin Spacey, Sir Ridley Scott was having none of it, and stepping into the picture is the exceptionally talented Sir Christopher Plummer who makes an especially compelling and sinister figure as the legendary oil man J. Paul Getty. Regarded as a master businessman, a ruthless negotiator and a miserable miser, Getty is adamant that he will not pay a cent for the release of his grandson and is far more content to let his family suffer through the painful ordeal that they find themselves in than to actually part with any of his fortune.
Plummer’s portrayal creates the picture of a man who could seemingly be King Mydus, the mythical king with the golden touch…but whose power and ability brought misery to everyone around him. Plummer’s arrogance and sense of self as Getty are completely in keeping with this legendary oil man’s persona and the hubris that comes to claim him at the end of the film is a fitting turn of events for the character. Plummer’s performance is utterly brilliant in every way and I have my fingers crossed that his talents will be rewarded in due course during Awards Season.
Along with its three talented leads, All the Money in the World has a terrifically tight paced-story and Scott and his all-star production team get the details right. They effortlessly recreate the carefree era of the early 1970s, along with hinting at its darker underbelly. Through a unique use of production design, costuming, colour, props and music, Scott visualises several different worlds within his film. There’s the carefree existence of John Paul as the wayward youth who is living off his trust fund in the middle of Italy with its earthy tones and long nights. Then there’s the cold, corporate old money palace of his grandfather J. Paul Getty. Here there is a sense of exuberant wealth, but that it is preserved and not shown, and is in keeping with Getty’s miserly nature.
Scott also goes to great lengths to show off great details that were a part of Getty’s life, including the infamous ‘Coin-box telephone’, which consisted of a phone booth where his guests were allowed to make phone calls from within his home…at their own expense. It’s a sad sight seeing Gail fighting for change and time within the box but is a quintessential part of who Getty was, and after seeing this, the audience is under no illusions as to the character of this wealthy, but despicable man.
Scott doesn’t let up in showcasing the ill-treatment of John Paul and this leads audiences into the notorious ‘ear-cutting scene’ where John Paul’s right ear was cut off and sent to Getty with a warning: “This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits.” It’s a pretty gruesome scene and will make the most squeamish of audiences jump, but it’s also a clear representation of Ridley Scott’s observance to capturing every facet of this fascinatingly complex story.
All the Money in the World is pure operatic cinema at its best and showcases the event that would define one family for generations to come. With its layered themes of money, wealth and survival, All the Money in the World is a complex and thought-provoking ride and combined with its beautiful visuals, audiences will just lap it all up. It’s a must watch on the big screen, and after you leave it you’ll no doubt want to question your own dependence on money…and just what it means to you.
Image: Roadshow Films