All the Money in the World, directed by Ridley Scott, delivers a fairly expansive story, with well explored, fascinating characters at its core. Despite the unforeseen complications that Ridley Scott ran into prior to the release of the film (the distressing revelations concerning Kevin Spacey) it seems nothing was going to get in the way of the highly experienced director from telling what is an unbelievable true story that has you gripped throughout. So let’s explore all that the film has to offer and just how well Ridley Scott was able to rework what could have possibly been a disastrous outcome for all involved. To the review.
Based upon a true story, we follow the events of the kidnapping of 16-year old, John Paul Getty III – portrayed by Charlie Plummer. The primary reason he was kidnapped was that his grandfather, J. Paul Getty – portrayed by Christopher Plummer – happens to be the richest known man in history. However, despite his wealth, Mr Getty refuses to pay the 17-million-dollar ransom. Gail Harris – portrayed by Michelle Williams – the mother of the kidnapped boy, attempts all within her power to get her son back, though that turns out to be a task that might end up being impossible.
Going into this film, I was expecting a film that would certainly be entertaining – it is directed by one of the most competent and hardest working directors in Hollywood; Ridley Scott – but that it would only touch lightly upon its many elements and not really go any deeper than the surface. I was wrong.
All the Money in the World offered me a story that had my attention throughout, and it had a host of characters who I all found to be compelling and full of aspects that I was interested to learn more about. Now, the film isn’t the deepest of explorers, when it comes to its characters, but it does find elements within all of them that build them out into more; making them feel like they aren’t just pretty set dressing.
The one who of course caught my attention first, and had me fascinated throughout, was J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer). Mr Getty is an unwavering man. Nothing seems to be able to sway him and his effortless ability to control and manipulate people, makes him an intimidating, yet interesting person to follow. Even more so when you add-on the fact that he comes across as a softly spoken, welcoming man, who seems unable to hurt a fly. There is much to him that is unsaid, and there is much to him that gets the cogs of your brain turning: why would the richest man in history be so tight with his money, that even paying to have his clothes washed by the hotel he’s staying in is a big no for him? Or the even greater question: how money hungry can you be, that you wouldn’t even pay the ransom money that would see your grandson returned safely to you?
I always knew there to be more to the story than he was just unwilling to spend money, and the film keeps you held in place, wanting to find out more about this money-hungry enigma. He was the person, more than anyone else, that had me glued to this film. But that could have easily not been the case, had Ridley Scott not taken a massive gamble and decided to reshoot every scene of the character; replacing Kevin Spacey (who had originally been cast in the film as J. Paul Getty) with Christopher Plummer.
I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail as to why Ridley Scott would want to get Spacey out of this film, and want to rescue it from being devastated by critics and left with pennies at the box office. What’s much more interesting to talk about is the turn-around time for replacing the actor and how well the gambled paid-off.
All the Money in the World was a month or two out from being released when Ridley Scott decided to re-shoot all the scenes that had Spacey in them (for a character who is absolutely essential to the film) and he pulled it off in 9 days. Having the necessary actors return (Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, etc.) and re-doing all the work they had previously done. When I read about this, I thought it to be an impossible task; one that, while ridding the film of Spacey, would undoubtedly be noticeable to a general audience and would be a detriment to the quality of the film.
But apart from one scene, and only one scene, Ridley Scott pulled it off and if you didn’t know Spacey was originally in the film, then you would never know now. Ridley Scott is one of the most experienced directors there is, and he knows exactly what he is doing and how he wants to do it. I honesty think most other directors would have struggled, and more than likely failed to pull off what Ridley Scott did. Look at the trouble Warner Bros. had simply getting rid of a moustache in Justice League. Ridley saved this film (one I’m sure he was passionate about and didn’t want undermined/ruined by the actions of a single person). J. Paul Getty was the aspect to the film I enjoyed the most, and Christopher Plummer’s performance as the stubborn man was the usual calibre of work you’d expect from such a talented, experienced actor. It’s also a character that had me guessing right up until the end, and the payoff was really satisfying.
But there is much more to this film, and thankfully none of that was tainted. Both Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg deliver good performances in the film – Michelle Williams in particular. She delivers a forceful, formidable performance of a mother who seems unbreakable. She is in scenes with actors of a particular calibre or star power, yet she fully holds her own, and often would steal the scene with the fury and power. Michelle Williams continues to show just how varied and accomplished she is as an actress – let’s not forget her heart-breaking performance in ‘Manchester by the Sea’ which saw her receiving many nominations.
But the most surprising aspect of this film was that it offered a performance from Mark Wahlberg that I enjoyed. Wahlberg isn’t an actor that I’m a big fan of. He has a handful of expressions that he switches between, and other than his work 2010’s, The Fighter, I haven’t seen anything from him recently that made me want to seek his films out. All the Money in the World changed that opinion and Wahlberg delivered a memorable, subtle performance, that had me seeing and believing in the character and not just seeing another uninspiring Mark Wahlberg performance.
As a whole, I feel the film handled its varied selection of characters well. I cared about a number of them (in different ways) and I was happy to learn about them and be a part of their stories.
This was also a film where I felt fulfilled by the story. It had me engaged from the very beginning, and it never lost that engagement from me. The film did feel longer than it was (its runtime is 133 minutes) but I never felt bored by what I was watching. I never found myself pleading for the end. I at all times was interested to see how things would play out, and the film continually upped the stakes and introduced elements that kept the film feeling like there was a momentum behind it.
Also, despite the film being based on a true story, there was still the fun of not being able to believe what you were seeing, as it seemed to farcical to be reality. It was certainly a film that got shocked gasps from the audience around me, and I even found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the actions of certain characters (J. Paul Getty in particular) or the outcomes to certain events. It was an experience that garnered a breadth of reactions from me; from disbelief, to one-or-two chuckles – making for an entertaining watch, for sure.
I enjoyed my time with this film, and what it showed to me, more than anything, is the immense talent and ability of director Ridley Scott, who took a film that would have been pummelled into obscurity by anyone who saw it, and instead put his experience to work and not only rescued his film, but also delivered a thoroughly enjoyable one.
I’m very happy to recommend, All the Money in the World. A story that interests you, characters who you find engaging and interesting, and an overall experience that feels fulfilling. If you find the time, this is certainly a film worth checking out.
I’m really interested to know what you thought of the film and my review of it, so please leave any opinions or feedback in the comments section down below. Also, it would be great if you could give both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – a wee follow each. But I’ll bring things to a close now, and thank you for taking the time to read my review. I hope you have a wonderful day!