Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer
All the Money in the World is about the corrosive power of money and how extreme wealth twists a man’s soul, crushing all traces of humanity. The film is based on true incidents that took place in 1973. At the time, Jean Paul Getty was the wealthiest man not just in the world but in the history of the world. Getty’s 16-year old grandson, also known as Paul, is kidnapped in Rome. The kidnappers demand a 17-million-dollar ransom. To which Getty senior replies: I have 14 other grandchildren, and if I pay one penny now, I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.
As a result, Getty junior is incarcerated for months. First criminals hold him captive in the Italian countryside but when no ransom comes, they sell him to the more ruthless mafia. Meanwhile his billionaire grandfather continues to spend millions building humongous mansions and buying paintings. At one point, he declares: there is a purity to things that I’ve never been able to find in another human being.
Getty senior is a monster and Christopher Plummer plays him to perfection. This character and his performance propel the film. It’s hard to imagine now that the role was first played by Kevin Spacey. But in early November, when allegations of Spacey’s sexual misconduct surfaced, director Ridley Scott replaced Spacey with the 88-year-old Plummer. Nothing about Plummer suggests that he was a last minute addition. Getty senior is so horrific and hypnotic that you can’t look away.
The other pillar is Michelle Williams who plays Abigail, the mother of the kidnapped teenager. Abigail is now divorced and in fact she has very little money. But no one believes her. She is forced to beg – from her former father-in-law and from the kidnappers who seem, in scenes, to be as desperate as she is. Williams is commanding as the wonderfully complex Abigail who eventually proves as resilient as her opponents. Mark Wahlberg makes much less impact as Getty’s ex-CIA operative – even though he plays a pivotal role, his performance barely registers.
All the Money in the World is written by David Scarpa who is working from John Pearson’s book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty. The film is a slow burn – it will take you some time to settle into story that veers from a kidnapping drama to a family drama to a dark morality tale. At over two hours, it’s also far too long.
But Ridley Scott’s sweeping direction and Plummer’s masterful performance make it a compelling modern-day horror film.