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All the Money in the World - Movie Review

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All the Money in the World - Movie Review

2 stars

Certain to cloud the legacy of Ridley Scott’s telling of the Getty kidnapping in All the Money in the World is the reality that it will always be remembered by the nearly inconceivable fact that just mere weeks before the film’s scheduled release, all of Kevin Spacey’s scenes were completely reshot with the role being taken over by Christopher Plummer… and still made its release date. A truly remarkable feat, yet sadly, the movie isn’t thrilling enough, nor is there sufficient mystery and intrigue for us to detach anything the film does from that disappointing footnote. Not the fault of Plummer himself nor that of Scott or any of the cast and crew. Just an unfortunate byproduct of some really bad ghosts rattling around in Hollywood’s closet.

The film begins in 1970’s Rome when a wayward young John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer - not related), called Paul by friends and family, is snatched from the streets, thrown into the back of a van, and whisked away into the hills of Italy. As the favorite grandson of the world’s richest man in the world at the time, his Calabrian kidnappers expect to make quick work of their crime and net a cool $17 million in the process.

Little did they know, however, that not only was oil magnate J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) rich, but he was also the tightest. He replies to the kidnappers’ demands noting that giving in to them would mean that every one of his 14 grandchildren would get kidnapped. With Getty refusing to pay the ransom, the kidnapping ordeal lingers for months with the elderly miser eventually agreeing to pay pennies on the dollar for the release of his grandson. “There’s very little in life worth paying full price for,” Getty says early on.

Fortunately, Paul is as tough and resilient as his mother Gail (Michelle Williams), who had earlier negotiated her way out of a bad marriage to Getty’s licentious son without demanding a single penny from the Getty family, a fact totally incomprehensible to Getty who knows that everyone is out to get his money.

As the film plays out, Scott’s timeline swaps back and forth between crime thriller and Shakespearian family drama as Paul’s situation grows increasingly dangerous while Gail continues to wrangle with Getty whom she begs to pay the ransom. What follows is a battle of wits between a desperate mother and an ornery old cuss who is being held hostage by his own money.

There’s an interesting dynamic that begins to develop between Getty and Gail. Williams is perfect as the internally distraught mother whose unflinching stoicism goes up against that of her billionaire ex-father-in-law. The story would benefit from a bit more time spent with this relationship, but instead we get an overly-long middle act dealing with Paul and his captors while very little insight is provided into the motivations of the kidnappers. It’s a lot of wasted screen time.

There’s also an interesting couple of scenes that very closely mirror real life and perfectly illustrate what an absolute skinflint Getty was. He had a coin-operated pay phone (complete with red booth) installed in his England home. Seems he grew tired of paying for the outside calls of his guests. In another, we see him doing his own laundry in the hotel bathroom. Sure, one doesn’t become a billionaire by throwing money away but it is quite disturbing to see how Getty treats his grandson’s kidnapping like a business deal.

As the hostage negotiations continue, Getty eventually agrees to lend his ex-CIA agent bodyguard (Mark Wahlberg) to the investigation, and with Gail, the two (along with the Roman police) continue to hunt her son’s kidnappers.

There’s a rather simple message threading its way through all the drama and complexities of human emotion in All the Money in the World. One that sets the stage for worthy discussions about money, the way it controls people’s lives, and how there is no price on happiness. And as brought to life by the performances of Williams and Plummer, the relevance of that message plays nicely against today’s political climate with its real-life examples of the value of love versus that of money. But as perfectly as they nail those themes, sadly Scott, et al. forget to make any of it interesting. We learn that there’s one thing money can’t buy, and that is our attention.

All the Money in the World - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.
132 mins
: Ridley Scott
David Scarpa
Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, and Mark Wahlberg
: Drama | Biopic
J. Paul Getty had a fortune. Everyone else paid the price.
Memorable Movie Quote: "There’s very little in life worth paying full price for."
Theatrical Distributor:
TriStar Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 25, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: 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.

No details available.

All the Money in the World - Movie Review

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