All the Money in the World Biography

'All the Money in the World' Film Review: Ridley Scott's eleventh-hour game-changer pays dividends

December 22, 2017Ben MK

The phone rings. A voice on the other end informs you that your child has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. It's every parent's worst nightmare, and in 1973 it became a reality for Abigail Harris, whose 16-year-old son, Paul, was snatched from the streets of Rome. But Paul was no ordinary teenager; no, he was also the grandson of the richest man in the history of the world — oil tycoon J. Paul Getty.

The subject of director Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World — the abduction of J. Paul Getty III and his grandfather’s staunch refusal to pay a cent of the $17 million ransom — was the news story that gripped the world 44 years ago. But as of late, it's been the film itself that has been garnering all the attention. In light of the controversy surrounding actor Kevin Spacey, Scott opted at the eleventh hour to recast the role of Getty with screen legend Christopher Plummer instead. Now, mere weeks after that decision, the finished product has been released for the moviegoing masses, and suffice to say, all concerns were for naught.

As the infamous billionaire obsessed with saving money through tax deductions and whose vast collection of art and antiquities rivaled that of any modern museum, Plummer doesn't miss a beat. Although his appearance in the film comes at the expense of $10 million in re-shoots and at least one instance of glaringly obvious visual effects, his portrayal of Getty is unforgettable — a true masterstroke of deadpan delivery, cold, calculating malice and grandiose self-delusion, with a hint of eye-twinkling charm thrown in for good measure.

Starring opposite Plummer is Charlie Plummer (no relation) as his waifish grandson, Paul, Michelle Williams as his former daughter-in-law, Abigail, and Mark Wahlberg as Fletcher Chace, Getty Sr.'s personal "man of risk," who's responsible for everything from making deals in Saudi Arabia on his boss' behalf, to overseeing the personal security system at the Getty estate. An ex-CIA agent, Fletcher puts his special set of skills to good use when he's tasked with helping Abigail and the Italian authorities track down her son and rescue him from his captors.

The movie follows a fairly standard kidnap thriller trajectory, but despite the serious subject matter, Scott and screenwriter David Scarpa still manage to inject some wry humor into the proceedings. Most of it comes from Wahlberg's character, who isn't afraid to speak his mind or make an offhanded remark when the feeling strikes him. However, Plummer manages to get in a few great moments as well, such as in one scene in which he dictates for his young grandson a blunt response to a letter from someone pleading for financial assistance.

Keen-eyed viewers may notice, however, that fleeting traces of Spacey appear to still exist in the film, the most notable of which involves a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot of a bust of J. Paul Getty that vaguely resembles Spacey from afar. Still, you have to hand it to Scott and the cast and crew who labored to make this minor miracle happen. Not only have they succeeded in vanquishing the grim specter of controversy from the movie; they have made All the Money in the World one of the year's few box office releases truly worthy of your hard-earned dollar.

All the Money in the World releases December 22nd, 2017 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 12 min.

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