REVIEW: All the Money in the World (2017)

Theatrical Release Poster – TriStar Pictures

The following is a review of All the Money in the World – Directed by Ridley Scott.

All the Money in the World is, easily, one of the most talked about films these last couple of months. It isn’t because it is one of the big favorites for the Academy Awards (it isn’t), and it isn’t because it was one of the most anticipated films of 2017 (it wasn’t). No, actually, the reason why people couldn’t stop talking about this film is for the simple fact that controversy is all over this film like moths around a flame.

Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World is a dramatization of the events surrounding the Getty family in the 1970s, when John Paul Getty III (played by Charlie Plummer), the sixteen year-old grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (played by Christopher Plummer), was kidnapped in Rome. The kidnappers would demand a ransom of $17 million from his family, but J. Paul Getty, the richest man in the world, was initially unwilling to budge and pay anything to save his grandson, in spite of objections from the boy’s mother, Gail Harris (played by Michelle Williams).

Okay, so let’s not bury the lede too deep. How successful is Christopher Plummer as a replacement for Kevin Spacey, and are the reshoots noticeable? First things first, let’s talk about Kevin Spacey and Christopher Plummer. When the first trailer and the first still images from All the Money in the World were released to the public, we were given these images of Kevin Spacey in massive amounts of distracting make-up.

Although there, at that time, still were expectations for Spacey’s performance to be good, all hope for and interest in that film was thrown out of the window when the Spacey-allegations surfaced. In stepped director Ridley Scott who, in a moment of true fearlessness, turned out to be just the right maverick to salvage what had begun to look like a doomed film in the aftermath of the Kevin Spacey allegations.

Scott convinced the studio behind the film to let him reshoot major parts of the film with the actor who had, supposedly, been one of the first choices for the part — Christopher Plummer. Plummer is a much more age-appropriate choice for the part than Spacey was, and he doesn’t need excessive amounts of goofy make-up to look the part. But, then again, Plummer was rushed in for nine days of reshoots.

And yet it feels like an extremely well-prepared performance. Plummer is outstanding. Plummer is exactly as cold, slimy, off-putting, and inhumane as the greedy character Getty needed to be, and, in the few moments of seemingly real connection with his family, Plummer adds some sense of heartfelt warmth to his character over his personal ambitions for his family.

He wants to build a dynasty, because he sees himself as an emperor. It feels weird to state the following considering the fact that Plummer replaced Spacey in the last minute (literally a month before it was to be released), but I, honestly, have a hard time picturing anyone else playing this character this well. Plummer is excellent.

The reshoots are somewhat noticeable, however. There is a scene in the Saudi-desert that definitely looks to have been completed using computer-generated images. You have to be careful not to overanalyze each and every shot in the hope that you may catch a glimpse of an oversight or some sort of clue to recognize what shots were part of the reshoots, and I tried my best to avoid doing that too much.

However, I might’ve fooled myself into thinking that Wahlberg looks distractingly different in his scenes with Plummer. Like, if he perhaps had lost weight. Those scenes are obviously part of the reshoots, but that was the one reshoot element that I, upon my first viewing, was focused on. Ultimately, if you somehow missed the Spacey-controversy, then I don’t think you will notice any significant reshoot issues except for maybe the Saudi-desert shot, but I digress.

Christopher Plummer is not the only one to give a solid performance. While Plummer’s is an outstanding performance, Mark Wahlberg is also very good, and Romain Duris — playing one of the kidnappers — is also a great surprise and a true scene-stealer. But the only performance that matches the quality of Plummer’s performance is the one delivered by the always excellent Michelle Williams.

It is easy to lose sight of whose film this really is, when you are conscious of all of the controversy surrounding the film. All the Money in the World has been the subject of two controversies: one about pay disparity and, the other, the much more publicized issue of having to recast J. Paul Getty for this film to have any chance of being appreciated.

Unfortunately, with all the talk of controversies that have Spacey, Plummer, Scott, or Wahlberg at the center of discussions, Williams’ name has sort of been kept in the background. I even think it is easy to lose focus on Williams’ excellent performance in this film.

Make no mistake, this film would not have worked if it didn’t contain a performance that so excellently confronts the callousness of Getty. Seeing her actively fight the empire that her former father-in-law commands with the hope that she may save her son is thrilling. Unfortunately, Williams likely won’t get that awards push that her performance deserves.

Unfortunately, the film really isn’t very memorable, even though some truly stellar performances keep it from being forgettable. Ridley Scott has with All the Money in the World given us a well-made, meticulously designed if somewhat rushed dramatization of an intriguing kidnapping that deserved to be given the big screen treatment.

7.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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