Review: All The Money In The World

PLOT: When his grandson is kidnapped by terrorists demanding a $17 million dollar ransom, billionaire John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) refuses to pay, instead assigning his negotiator (Mark Wahlberg) to help the boy’s mother (Michelle Williams) recover him.

REVIEW: One has to admire the sheer resourcefulness director Ridley Scott showed throughout ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD’s tangled production history. Already a rushed project, having only gone before cameras in the spring, a tight turnaround for a major production, a huge chunk of the movie was re-shot only weeks ago after the spectacular public fall of original star Kevin Spacey. With Christopher Plummer his new leading man, and the newly re-shot scenes seamlessly spliced-in, ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD managed to just about make its release date (well, it did end up getting pushed back three days) and if you didn’t know about the production history you’d never be able to tell.

Lavishly shot, ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD is one of Scott’s more consistent recent efforts. While not THE MARTIAN, it’s better than ALIEN: COVENANT, THE COUNSELOR and EXODUS: GODS & KINGS, and for 80% of the 135 minute running time, it’s a rock solid based-on-fact thriller. The John Paul Getty III kidnapping is indeed a strange story and rife with dramatic possibilities (which might explain why a competing FX miniseries, “Trust” from Danny Boyle, comes out in less than a month). As long as Scott’s film sticks close to what really happened, it works beautifully. Sadly, he’s not able to resist some major Hollywood-style detours that won’t bug anyone who watched the movie until they look up what actually happened, which is arguably far more dramatic.

To be sure, the casting is impeccable. Michelle Williams anchors the drama as the tormented mom, who refused to be part of the Getty machine, but now finds herself prey to the machinations of her miser father-in-law, while her ex is permanently zonked out on drugs. She’s vulnerable, but with a believable steeliness. Mark Wahlberg is also exceptional as negotiator Fletcher Chase, an atypically intellectual part for the tough guy actor, and a nice move into character roles as him always playing action hero has begun to wear thin a tad. French star Romain Duris also has a nice part as one of the younger Getty’s abductors, who develops an oddball bond with him.

As good as they are though, the movie utterly belongs to Christopher Plummer. The size of the Getty Sr., part was arguably downplayed in initial reports, with him virtually the lead. He may have a bit less screen-time than Williams, but his spectre dominates the proceedings, and Plummer is superb. It’s hard to think Spacey, under layers of makeup, would have been able to convey the experience Plummer, who’s actually close to the age Getty was when this happened, can. Instead of makeup, Plummer does away with gimmicks – and even if you compare the scenes with Spacey shown in the trailer to those with Plummer in the film, you can see how much subtler he is, and it works. He has gravitas, and it makes the movie. I doubt it would have been as good without him.

Too bad then that Scott gooses the proceedings with some lame Hollywood additions that reek of artificiality, and hurt the film tremendously. The story was good enough that it didn’t need them, particularly if you know anything about the real-life epilogue to the Getty story, which the film never goes in to. It’s a frustrating wrap-up to an otherwise excellent effort, but it diminishes the effect. Even still, one must applaud Scott and Plummer (as well as the rest of the cast/crew) for what they’ve accomplished in a hugely limited time frame.

Review: All The Money In The World




About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.