Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg
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“I think I’m finally beginning to understand what makes you tick,” says Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to billionaire J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer). “No, you couldn’t begin to,” comes the clinical reply. That, it seems, is the crux of this gripping financial drama, about the kidnapping of young John Paul Getty III, the 16-year-old son of the reclusive miser.
Based on Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J Paul Getty by John Pearson, the film gets off to a quick start and doesn’t lose momentum, as we see Paul (Charlie Plummer, recently seen in Lean on Pete) abducted in Rome. The price of his freedom? $17 million. His mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), is all too happy to cough up the money, except for one problem: she took full custody of the kids in the divorce from Getty, in exchange for no alimony, so she doesn’t have the dough required. And so she journeys to Getty’s estate to beg him. Unsurprisingly, he declines.
The reason behind that refusal is the one that initially draws us into the drama. Surrounded by a media mob, he’s barraged with questions about his stubbornly closed pockets, and he responds with matter-of-fact logic: if he paid up, then all of his relatives would start being kidnapped. It’s a fascinatingly cold stance, one that makes for an intriguing figure to study. Is he really that morally righteous? Or is he just horribly, unthinkably stingy? Christopher Plummer is perfectly cast in the role. He was parachuted in at a few weeks’ notice to film the scenes – a reshoot that saw him replace Kevin Spacey, following a spate of sexual harassment allegations against the House of Cards actor – but Plummer fits the part like a glove, able to balance the frosty, brooding weariness of age with a trace of twinkling warmth in his eyes.
Gail, meanwhile, goes to Italy herself to try and find her son, accompanied by Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), the former CIA agent Getty hires to investigate his son’s disappearance. Did Paul just kidnap himself as part of an elaborate scam? Is he in any danger? And where on earth are his kidnappers hiding him? Wahlberg brings his usual sincerity to the slick-haired fixer, while Charlie Plummer carries himself with a vulnerability that keeps the stakes very real. The undisputed star of the show, though, is Williams, who is unrecognisable as the devoted mother, fierce ex-wife and no-nonsense campaigner.
Ridley Scott, whose work ethic and speedy last-minute turnaround are testament alone to his talent at the helm, shoots the whole thing with a gloomy, shadowy quality – the wealth of the Getty household almost visibly hangs in the air, clouding judgement, feelings and sympathy for others. Williams’ strong accent and fiery gumption cuts through the air like a knife through butter, as she fights not just for Paul, but also to get some sense of justice in the wake of her and Getty’s divorce.
David Scarpa’s script may cut corners with the introduction of Cinquanta, the token nice-guy gangster (played by the always-excellent Romain Duris), but its decision to hinge on Gail’s resilient quest makes All the Money in the World a compelling watch. Taken just as a retelling of a chapter in the life of Plummer’s villainous Getty, the result is a likeable study of what makes a rich man tick, and what his money can’t buy. Throw in Gail, though, and you have a meaty story with added dramatic weight. “To be a Getty is an extraordinary thing,” remarks Paul at one point. All the Money in the World, though, reveals a life underneath that legacy can be as ordinary as they come.
All the Money in the World is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription.
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