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Movie Review: Ridley Scott’s ‘All the Money in the World’

“To be a Getty is an extraordinary thing. My grandfather wasn’t just the richest man in the world, he was the richest man in the history of the world. We look like you, but we’re not like you. It’s like we’re from another planet where the force of gravity is so strong it bends the light. It bends people too.”

Ridley Scott (Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Alien) directs and screenwriter David Scarpa (The Day the Earth Stood Still) adapts the 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson.

Set in the early 1970s with a few helpful flashbacks (e.g. Saudi Arabia in 1948), the plot follows the arduous events where the 16-year-old John Paul “Paolo” Getty III, portrayed by rising Charlie Plummer, is kidnapped in Italy and held for ransom because he was the grandson of J. Paul Getty.

Christopher Plummer stars as J. Paul Getty, this film’s central character who was well known as the richest man ever at this time in history (worth over 50 billion). Kevin Spacey was originally filmed in this role, but was replaced by Plummer in an amazing achievement where the seamless reshoots don’t even register as even the slightest blip to a viewer.

The 88-year old Plummer gets a considerable amount of screen time in a supporting role and the crew deserves a lot of credit for the reshoots…maybe the second time around allowed for even more refinement and practice instead of failing to pull off the seemingly impossible.

Plummer’s Oscar® nominated performance as J. Paul Getty provides a unique perspective into a wealthy, powerful man who was a pioneer in oil exploration/development where he “had to focus” and couldn’t be “weighed down with family” yet takes the time to attempt to develop and nurture them into the family business. The audience then learns how money eventually grips J. Paul Getty’s family member stronger than any of his wisdom and ideology can.

Michelle Williams stars as Gail Harris, Paul’s mom who has the polar-opposite view as she does everything she can to secure Paul’s freedom. Timothy Hutton portrays Oswald Hinge, Getty’s attorney and Andrew Buchan plays J. Paul Getty’s son John while Romain Duris portrays Cinquanta, one of the kidnappers.

Paul Getty says his main struggle in life is to “come to decision with what price is.” As the ransom demands are made public, he knows he’s a target, so he initially tempers his approach with logic – “I have 14 other grandchildren, and if I pay one penny now, then I will have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.” Gradually his advisor and former CIA operative Fletcher Chase, portrayed here by Mark Wahlberg, reveals more details into this unfortunate kidnapping.

The biographical drama is also a thriller, but not one that abides by typical elements in the genre. This film focuses on the events in a refreshing tone. No audience manipulation. No loud, tense string movements in the musical score. One of the main characters in the thick of the action does not even use a gun though the constant tension involving possible escape, witnesses and corruption remains especially when the organized crime Mafia group ‘Ndrangheta becomes involved in the kidnapping.

Scott establishes his directing skills quickly in an amazing beginning black & white sequence as cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (The Martian) basks the screen in blues to create the right emotional tone reflecting the settings (including Getty’s 72-room mansion at his English estate Sutton Place), time and situation. Filmmakers include important contextual details like the fuel crisis, cultural differences and other key elements while the musical score from Daniel Pemberton (Molly’s Game)

Amid all the real-life challenges (the reshoots, Wahlberg’s reported reshoot salary, etc.), All the Money in the World offers an amazing experience full of potent life lessons and family dynamics. It’s an experience that’s actually better without any knowledge of the real people and events, but that knowledge would definitely enhance this experience a noticeable amount. This film comes recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.

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