All the Money in the World

Christopher Plummer in 'All the Money in the World'.
Christopher Plummer in 'All the Money in the World'.
Photo: Times Media Films


3/5 Stars


The film follows the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother Gail (Michelle Williams) to convince his billionaire grandfather (Christopher Plummer) to pay the ransom. When Getty Sr. refuses, Gail attempts to sway him as her son’s captors become increasingly volatile and brutal. With her son’s life in the balance, Gail and Getty’s advisor (Mark Wahlberg) become unlikely allies in the race against time that ultimately reveals the true and lasting value of love over money.


All the Money in the World is, no doubt, forever going to be remembered mostly for how director Ridley Scott replaced disgraced actor, Kevin Spacey, with the similarly brilliant but rather less scandalous, Christopher Plummer, just weeks before the film was due for release. And, make no mistake, it truly is one hell of an accomplishment. The film had already been shot and was well into post-production when Kevin Spacey was accused of a series of rapes and sexual assault and Sir Ridley made the tough decision to totally recast his major part without delaying the release of the film. 

Crucially, between consummate professionals like Ridley Scott and Christopher Plummer – not to mention the film's editor, Claire Simpson – the film wasn't just finished but any and all changes have been seamlessly integrated into the film. If you didn't know any better, you would never, ever suspect that Christopher Plummer was anything but the guy who was always chosen to play the challenging part of Jean Paul Getty.    

As for the film itself, it's a rock-solid mix of drama and thriller that may never reach the dizzying highs of Scott's very best work but is a reminder of how skilled he is as a craftsman when paired with a halfway decent script. Boasting little of the stylishness of Matchstick Men, the moody power of Blade Runner or the ground-breaking horror of Alien, All the Money in the World is Ridley Scott working with the sort of straightforward, unfussy storytelling of someone like Clint Eastwood and doing a very fine job with it.

What this means is that there is very little that is extraordinary about the film but unlike misfires like his recent Alien prequels, Exodus: Gods and Monsters or, heaven help us, the Counsellor, there's not a whole lot to complain about either. We have an interesting, mostly true story, compellingly told that balances its drama and thriller aspects damn near perfectly. The only real misstep it makes is with the casting of Mark Wahlberg as a crack former-CIA negotiator who simply has none of the gravitas to convince in the role. I generally really like Wahlberg, especially in more comedic roles, but he is totally miscast here.

Other than that, there's not much to complain about. Plummer is great as the thoroughly unlikable but not entirely unsympathetic JP Getty, Michelle Williams is about as great as ever and everything about the film does its job very nearly flawlessly; all culminating in a pulse-pounding final act. It's an easy recommendation, especially to those who like this sort of film but it's nothing to get particularly excited about. 

It's also ultimately fairly shallow as it offers neither a fortune of insight into its characters nor does it do much with its comparison between the ruthlessness of Getty and the kidnappers. Mind you, considering the current political climate in America, spending much time on the evils of the unfathomably rich would probably be redundant at best.       

None of this is to say that All the Money in the World isn't worth seeing but there are at least two films being released in South Africa this week that are far more deserving of your time and, crucially, offer more to chew on thematically – and, yes, one of them is a superhero movie. Who'd have thought it?



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