All the Money in the World

December 24th, 2017




At the age of 80-years old, Ridley Scott accomplished what no director has ever done, re-casting a major character with less than a month before release and succeeding at it, delivering on all that he promised in the kidnapping drama All the Money in the World. An accomplishment of this nature is the thing of legends, not that the director of Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma & Louise needed to do anything else to prove his greatness, instead it almost feels like he’s showing off. All the Money in the World is not only thrilling, but it’s a fabulous cautionary tale, reflecting the impact of money, the legacy of family, and how far a mother would go to rescue her son. 

Unless you have lived in a cave without the internet, you know about the multiple sexual assault allegations brought against Kevin Spacey. These revelations prompted Scott to re-cast the supporting role of John Paul Getty with the actor that was originally his first choice, Christopher Plummer. It was a gamble that the Hollywood industry did not believe could be possible. When audiences see the final product, they will realize the greatness of Ridley Scott. In a fascinating turn of events, the drama behind the scenes is as equally entertaining as the action on the screen and it’s fantastic to see it all play out. 

Now, before I dive into the plot of All the Money in the World, I must give a background into what this movie means to me personally as a film critic. As some of my friends and other film critics know, Ridley Scott is my favorite director in cinema of all-time. I’ve rarely disliked his work, even the bad ones, finding a passion for the films he has made and the craft he uses in making them. To me, All the Money in the World is the peak example of this man’s greatness. That might make me biased and you may want to read another critics take on his films, but my hope is to infect you with my love for this artists work. I am in awe of his expertise. He is involved in every aspect of his films, from the costume design with Janty Yates, the production designs with Arthur Max, and his gorgeous framing of scenes with Dariusz Wolski, a crew that he has worked with on his last 12 films. That’s loyalty. That’s a family. 

On top of the success of his films, audiences tend to forget the important role Scott has played in cinema for women. He made Ripley the final girl. Had Jane shave her head. And took on Thelma & Louise when nobody would touch it. Now, he made the bold decision to remove a man who preyed on others from his film. Scott’s answer for removing Spacey, was because “too many people had worked hard on the movie, for one person to fuck it up”. His choice was the right one in multiple ways, and the final product is amazing. Had we not known about the controversial decision we may have never noticed. 

That brings us back to our story, written by David Scarpa from John Pearson’s 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunesof the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, we follow the intense and fascinating kidnapping by the French mob of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer- no relation), the grandson of the richest man in the world, John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer). The elder Getty was a man of fine tastes, but stayed a billionaire because he never wanted to spend his money. When asked by reporters “what would he give to get back his grandson”, the man grins, responding with confidence, “nothing.” This places the struggling and single mother of three Gail Harris (Michelle Williams doing damn good work) in the middle, her ex-husband strung out on heroine, without enough money to pay the ransom, and at the mercy of her stingy father-in-law. Her fight in the situation is a many layered conflict. Fearful of making a wrong move, unable to shake the lingering stench of greed left by the Getty name, and in shock at the thought of her sons well being. 

Stepping in the middle is ex-CIA operative and deal maker- Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg). Although some make a good argument that Wahlberg is mis-cast, this is actually some of Wahlberg’s most reserved work to date. Chase is playing the balancing act, aware of Getty’s cheap ways, while understanding of the unfair position that Gail is in. There is a trio of strong performances here, but the real praise belongs to Christopher Plummer, Williams, and of course, Ridley Scott. 

The narrative of the film ebbs and flows with calm moments in the Getty mansion and intense moments where the kidnappers become restless as the ransom continues to not be paid. Negotiating bad guy Cinquanta (Romain Duris) begins at seventeen million and dwindles down to four, but not without a message being sent. It may be a spoiler, but if you know Ridley Scott, nothing good happens at the kitchen table, and when the bad guys call for young-Getty’s ear, it’s one of the most gruesome and intense scenes of 2017. Only a person like Ridley Scott could do it this good. 

Like I said, I’m a bit biased, but I found All the Money in the World to be one of the most amazing achievements of the year. The stakes were high and movies that replace lead actors with less than a month typically aren’t this good. Yet, the argument can be made that both Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams deserve Oscar nominations, but leave most of the praise for Ridley Scott. He did it. He stayed confident in himself, and proved once again why he’s one of the greatest. Don’t believe me that he’s one of the greatest? I’ll bet you All the Money in the World. 


Written by: Leo Brady

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