All the Money in the World
2017, R, 132 min. Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Charlie Plummer, Teresa Mahoney, Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton, Andrew Buchan.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 22, 2017
If nothing else, All the Money in the World is remarkable for having edited out one lead actor for another at the 11th hour. This recounting of the 1973 kidnapping of billionaire Scrooge-a-phile John Paul Getty’s grandson, J. Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation), initially co-starred Kevin Spacey as Getty the elder. Following the recent sexual assault allegations against him, and in a bit of inspired last-minute maneuvering, 88-year-old cinema icon Christopher Plummer stepped into the role, necessitating a wealth of re-shoots.
The result is almost surely a better movie for it. Plummer is far closer to Getty’s actual age, for one thing. He also commands the screen with a miserly sort of gravitas that all but oozes wolfish avarice that embodied J.P. Getty’s rancid and rapacious philosophy: Greed is great; and everything, everyone has a price.
Flashing back and forth through the lives of Getty, his estranged daughter-in-law Gail (Williams, top-notch), and young Paul, screenwriter David Scarpa, adapting from John Pearson’s book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, finally settles on the triumvirate of devoted mother Gail, teenage Paul and his kidnapping in Rome, and the ex-CIA operative and Getty’s goon Friday-cum-amanuensis Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg). The kidnappers, a seemingly endless stream of them, initially ask for $17 million for the lad’s safe return, but John Paul Getty is having none of it, forcing Gail and Chase to haggle in desperation, with assistance from the Italian polizia.
A surface viewing of the film makes it feel like this is one of Scott’s lesser magnum opuses but on closer inspection this is a story that’s all but contemporaneous given its through-line of amoral acquisitiveness. Williams and Wahlberg hold their own against the former Captain Von Trapp, but really this is a delicious Christopher Plummer movie in all but top-billing (Williams gets that, and it’s another notch in her already exemplary C.V.). At his advanced age, the actor shows no sign of slowing down, and thank the stars for that. His youthful vigor may be contained for the role (unlike in 2010’s wonderful Beginners), but he owns the screen even when he’s not actually on it. Mesmerizing is an overused description of great actors, but in this case it’s faint praise indeed.