It’s almost impossible to talk about “All the Money in the World” without talking about the major scandal surrounding the film’s controversial and bold recasting decision made just one month ago. After the accusations of sexual assault against star Kevin Spacey, who portrayed J. Paul Getty in the film, director Ridley Scott, with only a month to wide release, cast veteran actor Christopher Plummer in Spacey’s original role, reshooting all scenes involving Getty, while still maintaining its Christmas Day release date. However the reshoots ended up, the decision to hit the ground running to purge the film of a tainted name is an admirable one to say the absolute least. Scott, a director known, even into his 80s, for his consistent output of work with “All the Money in the World” being his second film of 2017 alone (the first being “Alien: Covenant”), spared no expense to make sure that “All the Money in the World” hit theaters with more resolve than revolt.
So let’s get it out of the way first, are the reshoots in “All the Money in the World” noticeable? Absolutely not. The smoothness of the role transitioning from Spacey to Plummer is made without a hitch, and not only that, Plummer gives one of his best performances of his career as Getty, a slimy über-capitalist of the stingiest variety. Granted, there weren’t any mustaches to cover over with CGI or any major plot changes made, to the untrained eye, no one would even bat an eye in thinking that Plummer wasn’t involved from the very start of production, let alone only one month ago.
Set in Rome, 1973, 17-year-old Paul Getty (Charlie Plummer, of no relation), is kidnapped by Calabrian thugs demanding a ransom of $17 million for his release. His mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), divorced from J. Paul Getty Jr. (Andrew Buchan), is contacted by the kidnappers, but does not have the money to pay, to which she is instructed to probe her father-in-law, billionaire J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) for the money. Prompted by the possible murder of his grandson, Getty, notably frugal, refuses to pay the ransom for his grandson’s release. Together with Getty’s business manager, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), Gail must try to remotely keep the kidnappers from killing her son while she attempts to procure the ransom money, whether it be from Getty or by other means.
As stated before, Plummer gives one of his best performances to date as Getty, but it’s Williams as Gail who really carries “All the Money in the World” on her back. Williams is an actress who is slowly but surely making a comeback, and “All the Money in the World” is the perfect reminder just how wonderfully versatile and powerful of an actress she is. As a mother on the brink, she nails the perfect amount of volatility and desperation that a mother on the cusp of losing her child needs in a performance. She has the resolve of a game hunter and the vulnerability of a lost puppy, and never loses her way in painting a wonderfully frayed picture. Wahlberg, not known for the subtlety in his craft, also gives one of his best performances to date as Chase, as well, even if that’s not a high bar to clear. It’s not a particularly deep character, but it’s the perfect role for Wahlberg to show that he still has it as a dramatic actor.
Scott is a director known for his visual eye in filmmaking, often taking on larger-than-life sci-fi and action projects, scales himself back immensely here. It’s a muted, grounded film that really gets to show off Scott’s lasting skill as a dramatic filmmaker that we haven’t been able to see in a film in full force since “American Gangster” (though I do have a soft spot for “The Counselor”). There’s nothing flashy about “All the Money in the World,” but there’s a great amount of dexterity in crafting the story at hand. Scott is able to tell three separate stories between Paul’s experience, Gail’s search, and Getty’s greed that plays out seamlessly in parallel fashion. It would be easy for “All the Money in the World” to be convoluted, but Scott grounds himself in reality, rather than shooting for the stars, and the end result is refreshingly simple and clean.
“All the Money in the World” is a rousingly grounded films that defies all of its setbacks to create one of the more effective thrillers of the year. It’s not pretty, nor is it put into a nice neat bow, but it’s a story of great resilience and resolve, one that Scott approaches with the utmost care, while also managing to keep the film feeling fluid and cinematic. Scott has a way of constructing history in a way that never feels like a history lecture, even if it still has its clear viewpoints on it. While “All the Money in the World” isn’t an explicitly anti-capitalist film, it’s a stylishly bold take on toxic capitalism through the eyes of the borderline sociopathic greed behind the eyes of Getty, portrayed sublimely by Plummer. It’s not only the film and its execution that’s bold, but in Scott’s nerve as a filmmaker to take such a risk at the behest of a major studio and pull it off. That’s thrilling enough in itself to watch.
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, and Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer.
Runtime: 132 minutes
Rating: R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.
TriStar Pictures and Imperative Entertainment present, a Scott Free and Redrum Films production, a Ridley Scott film, “All the Money in the World”