Review by Josh Teggert
When John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped in Rome, his desperate mother Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) attempts to convince the boy’s grandfather, J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), to pay the ransom. His obstinate refusal leads to a string of events that continually get more frantic and violent.
I want to begin by emphasising the paramount importance of evaluating All the Money in the World objectively. In an unprecedented move, Christopher Plummer took over from Kevin Spacey as the billionaire oil tycoon J.P. Getty only two months before the film’s release, following accusations of sexual assault against the latter. Director Ridley Scott chose to reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes and still make the 25th December (USA) release date.
This is all irrelevant. Whilst it is commendable that Scott completed such a feat (I will admit, however, that the continuity is astonishing!), All the Money in the World deserves to be looked at in its own right. And ultimately, this thriller ticks all the boxes necessary to provide a pulse-racing, captivating ride.
The stakes are high, the newspaper cameras are flashing, and at the centre of it all: J.P. Getty, resides in one of his many mansions, almost impervious to the increasing threat of the situation. To put it simply, Ridley Scott entwines these opposing aspects masterfully. As he did with The Martian, another ticking-clock spectacle of his, Scott manages to spread the viewers’ attention to every aspect of the story, leaving no room for a dull moment or lack of investment.
In doing this, he takes the slow-burn approach; the kidnap happens within the first few minutes, but then the story halts and the background context begins. This can be frustrating, especially the constant jumping between time periods at the start. However, as the momentum begins to pick up, each scene plays a worthwhile part in developing the story, resulting in a very organised flow and an exceptional balance to the narrative.
There are, naturally, parts that standout. Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer shine in their roles. They clash with each other constantly, but Scott executes this in a way that allows compassion towards each side, sparking an unsettling conflict within the viewer as to what their opinion on the case may be. Charlie Plummer is decent as the impressionable teenager, and the development of the relationship between him and one of his kidnappers, Cinquanta (Romain Duris), is one of the most surprisingly engaging features of the whole film. It cannot be denied, however, that Mark Wahlberg’s former CIA agent, Fletcher Chase, is presented as a one-dimensional ‘deal-maker’; it felt as if his sole purpose was to outline the ever-increasing complications of the kidnapping.
An all-round brilliant performance, and an Oscar season contender for many categories, All the Money in the World is an enticing film. Its overall steadiness is remarkable and, dare I say, it is one of the best thrillers in recent memory.