The latest from director Ridley Scott returns him to the world of history like 1492: Conquest of Paradise, American Gangster, and Black Hawk Down before it. This time around, the ever-energetic 80 year old filmmaker has turned his eye to the infamous 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and his billionaire grandfather J. Paul Getty’s (Christopher Plummer) refusal to pay the ransom.
The picture largely details the efforts of Paul’s mother Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) and family troubleshooter Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to procure the boy’s release. This entails constant battles with Getty, avoiding the ever-intrusive press, and dealing with kidnappers who don’t quite know what they are doing at first. Being a Scott picture, it is shot and directed just as strikingly as you would imagine and the pacing rolls at a nice enough clip so as not to attract attention to its over 2 hour running time. David Scarpa’s script lays out the facts of the case in intriguing details, deftly switching from location to location as we see constantly how the events are impacting Gail, Getty, Paul, and the kidnappers themselves.
Williams and Plummer are the standouts in terms of performance, with the latter being of particular note due to how late in the game he entered the production. For those not aware, the entire film had been shot with now-notorious actor Kevin Spacey in the role, albeit hidden behind old age make-up. Once major sexual assault allegations came through against the performer back in the fall, both director Scott and studio Sony (via TriStar Pictures) decided it best to reshoot the entire part. Christopher Plummer was brought in only weeks before the film’s scheduled premiere and all necessary scenes were reshot with him in a matter of days. That the film came out as planned is miracle enough, but for Plummer to end up giving the film’s best performance? It smacks of destiny.
If there is one major weak link in the chain, it is unfortunately Mark Wahlberg. I consider myself a fan of Wahlberg as an actor, but he’s not an incredibly versatile performer. His best roles tend to involve him playing an asshole, a doofus, or a doofus asshole. Since Fletcher Chase is none of these things, Wahlberg is a bit out of his depth here. He’s not terrible, but he ends up giving a forgettable turn in a role that otherwise could have been knocked out of the park by a more suitable actor.
At the end of the day, All the Money in the World is not one of Ridley Scott’s best films, but it is one worth seeing. The story is intriguing, most of the performances are great, and it is as handsomely crafted a film as we’ve come to regularly expect from Scott. Plus it put Timothy Hutton on the big screen again and thus made this Dark Half pretty happy. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make you smile the most.
All the Money in the World is a crime drama based on the book Painfully Rich by John Pearson. It is directed by Ridley Scott, from a screenplay by David Scarpa. The film is produced by Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis, Dan Friedkin, Mark Huffam, Ridley Scott, Bradley Thomas, and Kevin J. Walsh. It stars Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris, Marco Leonardi, Andrew Buchanan, and Timothy Hutton.
P.S. – It will be very interesting to see how Danny Boyle’s miniseries version of this tale, Trust, compares when it arrives on FX this March.