I’m pretty sure most people know of ‘All the Money in the World’ as the film (director) Ridley Scott decided to cut Kevin Spacey out of in light of the slew of allegations against him. Spacey had completed filming as J. Paul Getty, an oil billionaire whose grandson is taken hostage, but the decision was made to recast Christopher Plummer in the role. The likes of Michelle Williams (who plays Gail Harris, Getty’s daughter-in-law and mother of the hostage grandchild) and Mark Wahlberg (as Fletcher Chase, Getty’s advisor) had to come back at short notice to re-shoot the twenty-two scenes that Getty appears in.
Given the quick turnaround, it’s surprisingly hard to tell that the piece has been ‘tampered with’ at all, except for the fact that the young actor playing a child version of Getty’s grandson visibly grew up between the initial filming and the re-shoots. I’m glad they took on the challenge; a heck of a lot of work has gone into this film and it would have been a shame for it to have never made it to the screen.
I found the film itself to be a bit of a slow burner but its climax is ultimately compelling. Essentially Getty doesn’t want to pay the ransom for his grandson because he thinks he’ll end up with all of his grandchildren being taken and that would cost him a lot of money. Really, he just values money and the tangible things that money buys him above all else. The plot moves in a series of visually and narratively similar spiralling repetitions; each turn moves us closer to the endgame but isn’t all that different to the last. There’s a lot of back and forth, we see a lot of Michelle Williams’ character on the phone with the hostage-takers exasperatedly telling them she doesn’t have the money they want, before turning back to Getty to plead for his dosh.
I admit the monotony is broken up with some action. Getty’s grandson does try to escape and there are a horrific few minutes where his ear gets severed off (not a spoiler, it appears on the US posters and quote frankly I wish I’d known about it before seeing the film because it was grim viewing). This makes Getty rethink and hand over some (but not enough) money and we’re soon back to Wahlberg’s character using the concept of money to ruse Getty to hand over more money (… money … money …).
As much as I found the film repetitive the performances do just about enough to sustain interest. Plummer delivers a fine Getty who’s eerily void of most human emotion but it’s Michelle Williams who steals the show as an understandably emotional but determined mother. At the very least, All the Money in the World is worth seeing for the way she masterfully holds the film’s last few frames. Wahlberg, however, seems somewhat out of place among the company of his more than competent co-stars.
Ridley Scott’s direction and David Scarpa’s words don’t build enough tension to make All the Money in the World a thriller for the ages and, other than conveying the notion that it’s probably not a great idea to get all consumed by the pursuit of wealth (a wholly unoriginal concept), I’m not exactly sure what we’re supposed to glean from this film.
Overall, I give All the Money in the World a rating of 3/5.