From Casablanca to A Christmas Carol, Ridley Scott’s latest project was laced with hints of various influences and inspirations and yet, the story kept its intriguing tone throughout and enveloped me in edge-of-my-seat, nailbiting excitement.
John Paul Getty III, favorite grandson of the richest man on earth, is kidnapped by a group of Italian lower-tier criminals and held for ransom of no less than 17 million dollars – initially. Hearing of this, oil magnate Mr. Getty Sen. is unimpressed, giving the press the ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists/criminals’ speech. Bowing to these kidnappers’ demands once would do nothing but ensure that his other grandchildren would suffer the same fate, opening the door for any and all lowlifes to extract money straight outta Big G’s pockets. Smart move, in my opinion, to claim that position in the public eye. Unfortunately, the old geezer’s stance remains unchanged even in private and he entrusts his head of security, Fletcher Chase, with the task of saving Paul for as close to zero dollars as possible. Stingy bastard.
Two perspectives of the storyline are alternatingly unfolding:
On the one hand, we follow Paul’s mom Gail as she maneuvers, with as much grace as she can muster, between getting her father-in-law to buy Paul’s freedom and doing what she can to remotely ensure her son’s safety through surveilled phone conversations with the kidnappers and attempts at acquiring a few millions herself.
On the other hand, we see Paul as he is being treated like barely a step above a stray animal during his months in captivity. Although he develops a strange kind of not-quite-friendship with one of his kidnappers, there was never a moment where one feels hopeful for Paul. Not during his escape attempts and certainly not while he is mutilated – a decidedly graphic scene not for the faint of heart, mind you.
Though certainly a plot-driven film, I immensely enjoyed the dialogue. After a slight initial cringe due to Paul’s ill-fittingly and somewhat clumsily worded stint as narrator (that luckily didn’t return as the story went on), I found myself chuckling at quite a few snappy retorts, especially the ones Gail dealt. Michelle Williams fit the role fantastically. She was able to convey a hurricane of frustration and fear behind a strong, at times even steady exterior. Simultaneously, one would never question her intentions or the love for her children. A well deserved Golden Globe nomination and clearly worth a lot more than Williams got.
Christopher Plummer’s performance as Big G had my stomach twist with hatred and disgust. An entirely irredeemable villain, if I’ve ever seen one, whose aloof, greedy nature starkly contrasted the fragile, sickly man he was in his last waking moments. Certainly the ideal casting choice for Mr. Getty.
One actor who I think deserves much more recognition and praise is Charlie Plummer. The subtle ways in which he gave a glimpse into the makeup of Paul’s character is incredible. A rich, spoilt teenager – that combination alone has ‘defiance’ written all over it. Which is why it makes so much sense that at first he believes to be invincible, insisting that he is able to ‘take care of himself’ as well as his later scoff of disbelief as his kidnappers suggest to take his ear off. He’s not a cliché of a rich teenager, however, which is why we otherwise do see him cautiously respectful towards and completely terrified of his kidnappers. But what impressed me most was the profound yet delicate change in behavior between the first and last scene of the film. While his self-assuredness in the beginning seems more like a method to convince not only others but also himself of his confidence, his demeanor has substantially changed after everything he went through. Unfounded youthful fearlessness has turned into a more quiet certainty about what matters in his life and who can be relied upon and trusted. Moreover, he seemed to have found a more honest and thus unshakable sense of self but without losing his humorous and light-hearted personality, luckily.
Oh, and Mark Walberg was also not entirely awful.
All The Money In The World is based on true events that took place over several months. And while many horrifying and story-worthy things happened during that time, the movie was too lengthy. I was never bored watching it but there were certainly moments that could have been sped up. Twenty minutes less would not have subtracted from the excitement or the gripping atmosphere that persisted almost throughout – it would have enhanced it, if anything.
It is, at its core, a story about the corruptive power of wealth and that money can’t buy happiness – we’ve heard it a hundred times before. However, in this day and age of rampaging capitalism with little regard for any worth beside the monetary kind (what even is a bitcoin?) it does good to once more be reminded of the value of life and love. Even if All The Money In The World lays it on a bit thick there in the end.
Overall an immensely enjoyable film that I will for sure see again. And I will definitely keep my eye out for more of Charlie Plummer’s projects!