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Review: All the Money in the World (2017)

All the Money in the World (2017)

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Premise: Based on true events. In 1973, the sixteen year old grandson of billionaire J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) is kidnapped and held for ransom. The situation escalates when the grandfather refuses to pay.

What Works: Filmmaker Ridley Scott is primarily known for making sci-fi movies like Alien and historical epics such as Gladiator but he’s also occasionally tried his hand at stories about crime and terrorism to mixed effect. All the Money in the World is not only Ridley Scott’s best crime drama but also one of the best movies in his filmography. This is primarily a thriller and it is an excellent example of that kind of filmmaking. The kidnapping plays out across several months and the filmmakers occasionally flash backward in time to fill in the background. This is an exceptionally well structured movie both in the way in that it presents and arranges expository information as well as the way it tells its story and escalates the drama. There is no extraneous information and the moviemakers tell their story with perspicuity while also allowing for nuance and characterization. This is a tense and exciting story well told and its twists and turns will keep viewers on the edge of their seats throughout. Beyond that, All the Money in the World is a movie for its time. The filmmakers have reached into the recent past to tell a story that is remarkably relevant to our contemporary moment. J. Paul Getty’s empire was primarily built upon the extraction of Saudi Arabian oil and it made him the richest person to have ever lived. The movie taps into contemporary anxieties about the disparity between the wealthy and the poor and the way human relationships are reframed in monetary terms. All the Money in the World has several extraordinary performances, chief among them being Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty. Plummer does not play Getty as an obvious villain. In fact, there is little trace of maliciousness in Plummer’s performance but that makes some of his decisions all the more shocking. Michelle Williams is cast as Gail Harris, the mother of the abductee, and as usual Williams is terrific. She is the most interesting character in the movie as she is a Getty by marriage and since divorcing her husband finds herself living on the periphery of an empire which she then has to fight to save her son. Charlie Plummer is cast as the kidnapped J. Paul Getty III and he possesses a youthfulness and naiveté that makes him sympathetic.

What Doesn’t: Mark Wahlberg is cast as a former CIA operative who Getty employs as a negotiator and fixer. Despite his colorful background, Wahlberg’s character remains undefined and he is generally uninteresting. It’s not entirely Wahlberg’s fault. The character just isn’t there and when Wahlberg is given his big acting moment at the end of the movie it comes across forced and hollow.

Bottom Line: All the Money is the World is among Ridley Scott’s best movies. This is a sleek thriller that also includes a lot of character detail and rich thematic ideas of pride, avarice, and corruption. 

Episode: #681 (January 14, 2018)