By Brad Haynes
All The Money In The World
★★★ out of ★★★★
Most of the talk aboutAll The Money In The World, the latest film from legendary director Ridley Scott, has centered around the recasting of one of the film’s leads. Kevin Spacey as oil tycoon John Paul Getty was replaced after he became embroiled in a sex scandal of epic proportions.
Spacey was out, the great Christopher Plummer was in, and over half the film’s scenes had to be reshot to excise Spacey and incorporate Plummer. Additionally, the film’s cast members who shared the screen with Plummer’s Getty, including Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg, did it all again a second time completely for free!
All The Money In The World is just one of two films appearing this holiday season portraying events of the 1970s (Steven Spielberg’s The Post is set in the same time period as well).
Chronicling the kidnapping of the teenaged J. Paul Getty III, and the failure of his grandfather to immediately cough up the $17 million ransom (the miserly elder Getty’s reaction was that he had 14 grandchildren and if he paid the ransom on one, then the rest of them would soon go missing). It was also thought that the boy could have been in on his own kidnapping. That idea couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The primary person fighting for the return of the boy was his mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), who was divorced from the boy’s father, a womanizing drug addict. She joins forces with Fletcher Chase, a former CIA agent under Getty’s employ, to try to find the boy, and to negotiate his release.
It’s a rush against time and director Ridley Scott keeps the suspense building throughout, even throwing in a few red herrings to keep you guessing. He also doesn’t shy away from one of the most memorable things about the kidnapping. To show they meant business, the band of Italian criminals that had the boy cut off one of his ears and mailed it to an Italian newspaper. It’s an excruciatingly painful scene to watch, as the boy is tortured with the removal of his ear, and Scott plays it just right.
All eyes are immediately on Plummer, taking over for Spacey (who already had awards talk going), and Plummer couldn’t be any better. Whereas Spacey was decades younger than Getty, and the makeup department made use of prosthetics to age Spacey and get him to look more like Getty, Plummer is just…Plummer. And it’s perfect. He will more than likely find himself nominated time and time again during awards season (he has already been nominated for a Golden Globe in the Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture category).
Williams shows a true passion for her son and a passion to have him rescued, but her performance becomes bogged down by a questionable accent choice. Sounding like she’s doing a Katherine Hepburn impersonation, the quirkiness of her speech oftentimes takes away from her performance, and that’s a shame.
Wahlberg brings nothing truly unique to his role as negotiator Chase, but it doesn’t diminish from the film’s impact. In the end, it’s an enjoyable look at a harrowing slice of history for one of the world’s richest families, and a chance for Plummer (another unrelated Plummer, Charlie, is very good as the kidnap victim) to demonstrate his admirable acting chops.
The Good: Fascinating true-life story benefits from the direction of Scott and brilliant “last minute stand in” performance from Christopher Plummer.
The Bad: It’s sad that a bizarre accent can effect a characterization so much, but whenever Michelle Williams spoke, it drew you away from the character of the overwrought mother.
Final Word: Questionable accent and Wahlberg aside, All The Money In The World tells a fascinating “mostly” true story and will go down in history as a landmark in re-casting when Kevin Spacey was dropped and Christopher Plummer hopped on board.
Starring Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Plummer, Charlie Plummer. Directed by Ridley Scott.
Running Time: 2 hrs 12 minutes
Rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.