TL;DR – “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – No
All the Money in the World is a fascinating film for three very different yet related reasons. First, the events and the family whose story it is telling, and the role money plays in it all. Then there are the powerful performances of the actors that are in many cases contenders for the next Oscars. Finally, there is no way that you can talk about this film without discussing the production behind the scenes because that is almost unprecedented in the industry. So in today’s review, we are going to look at all three of these points and why they all combine to create a work of art that will be studied for years to come.
However, before I jump into all that, let’s take a moment to set the scene. We open on John ‘Paul’ Getty III (Charlie Plummer) as he walks through the streets of Rome. From the narration, we discover that he is a Getty, the grandson of the richest man in the world, maybe even the richest man in history. Even though he may look the same as you or me the narration makes it clear that he is something else set apart from normal mankind. Well on this fine evening as Paul is looking to find some ‘company’ a van pulls up and calls his name and the next moment he is being dragged into it and taken away to places unknown. It is then that his mother Gail (Michelle Williams) gets a phone call “we have taken your son”. We then jump back and chart the history of the Getty family which led to this moment. As openings go it is a powerful way to catapult you into the world of greed and violence.
Indeed bar maybe The Post (see review), this is one of the most timely films I have seen so far this year. This is because it pertains to the Getty family and is a case study in the lives of the uber-wealthy or as is commonly referred to these days the 1%. In a world where the rich/poor divide is growing is growing in places in the world, it is a cautionary tale of the life of the rich and famous. Now before we move on I do want to say I am not an expert on the Getty family so I cannot tell you if the film is an accurate depiction of the family or the events at the time, I can only tell you that it is a compelling depiction. Getty Sr. (Christopher Plummer) is a man who is interested in accumulating more, more money, more things, and more power. He is someone that will spend an hour haggling a poor shopkeeper down from $20 to $11.50 for an artefact that might be worth $1 million. Of course, this is contrasted with Gail who is presented as someone who cares deeply about her family and sees them as her children not just her legacy. She is someone who knowingly gave up access to the greatest wealth in the world, instead wanting to have her children. This is interesting because Getty Sn. is someone who cannot understand why Gail would give up access to all the Getty’s wealth just to have her children back and instead thinks this is some scheme that she is employing to defraud him. It is this divide that provides much of the conflict in the film and is an interesting case study in the role of money in our lives, and the interplay of money and family.
While it is telling a story that transcends its time and place, that sucks you into its murky world. It is also a film where the fantastic acting of its cast elevates it to a new height. Now if we are talking about acting we have to start with Michelle Williams, who is simply phenomenal. So I am old enough to have grown up at the time when Michelle Williams was staring in Dawson’s Creek, so I’ve always been a fan of her work. However, here she gives what I think maybe her best performance to date, she had to hit nearly every possible emotion in this film from jubilation, to grief and everything in between. At every point, it is a believable performance, and I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to go to those places of grief take after take for months on end. Christopher Plummer brings his immense experience to the role, and you can see it in the small details, the way his voice inflects, or the way he moves his hands, it is all about creating a character in a very short amount of time. As well as this, it has a really strong supporting cast with Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris & Marco Leonardi all giving really compelling performances. If there was one weak link in the film it might be Mark Wahlberg, he’s just sort of playing the same character we have seen in lots of other films. It’s not bad, but in a film where so many others are swinging for the fences, the safe option sort of stands out.
Well, it is safe to say that All the Money in the World will go down in history for a lot of things and one of those has to be the replacement of one of the leading cast members only months out from release. Now it is not unheard of to replace a cast member on a TV show, it happens quite often between the pilot and the full season pick-up, indeed it is even not unprecedented for it to happen at the start of production in films, like for example The Hobbit, or V for Vendetta, and even Back to the Future. However, I don’t think I have ever seen it happen after the film has wrapped, for a role this big especially so close to the release date. I happened to see one of the old trailers with Kevin Spacey last year before a film I was watching and I thought that he must have been a very small role that could have been easily picked up the one or two scenes he was. However, this was not the case because Getty Sn is in a lot of the film, so it much has taken considerable work from everyone in the production to get the film finished as fast as they did. That takes a commitment from everyone working together to get it down … Mark … and I am glad that everyone did put in that effort to work collaboratively in what must have been very stressful circumstances … Mark …
So, in the end, do we recommend All the Money in the World? Yes, yes we do. It is telling an interesting story, it has powerful acting, and at the very least there is that curiosity of seeing if they did pull off the cast switch, which in my opinion they did. It make the best use of its cast, of its locations, and its story. A fascinating film through and through.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of All the Money in the World
Directed by – Ridley Scott
Written by – David Scarpa
Based on – Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson
Music by – Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography by – Dariusz Wolski
Edited by – Claire Simpson
Starring – Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris, Marco Leonardi, Andrew Buchan, Timothy Hutton & Giuseppe Bonifati
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R