All The Money In The World: Can The Film Overcome The Controversy?

There’s absolutely no way to avoid this one in the present. Perhaps in a decade or two when it isn’t so fresh, but certainly not now.

Most of the attention that Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World has received thus far is due to the sudden recasting of Kevin Spacey after being outed as a sexual predator. That’s a pretty heavy thing for a film to have to work against. Now, I want to be perfectly clear that even though I truly admired him as an actor before, I have absolutely no sympathies for him any longer. As previously mentioned in our Bright review, we stand with the accusers. I don’t want this to impact my discussion of the film, but I felt it needed to be addressed.

All The Money In The World is based on the true story of the abduction of John Paul Getty III in 1973, and the attempts to secure his safe rescue. Paul’s grandfather, J. P. Getty (or, just Getty), was a massive oil tycoon, and was supposed to give in to the kidnapper’s demands. Ever the shrewd businessman, Getty publicly refuses to pay the ransom as it would encourage further kidnappings of his grandchildren.

The film mostly focuses on Gail Harris, who is Paul’s mother but has been estranged from the Getty empire after divorcing her husband and staying away from her father-in-law. Unable to fulfill the ransom demands, she is forced to ask for help from Getty, who won’t give away even a small portion of his enormous fortune for anything. Instead, he offers the services of Fletcher Chase, a former CIA operative who works for Getty negotiating oil deals. It is Chase’s job to track down the kidnappers and retrieve Paul, ideally without paying the ransom.

Despite everything surrounding the film and also the coin-flip nature of his recent output, Ridley Scott does know how to make a film. All The Money In The World may not be a spectacular outing that ends up on everyone’s Best Of 2017 lists, but it certainly belongs in the top half of Scott’s filmography. He knows his way around tension and pacing, and he manages to make a 133 minute film not feel nearly as long as it actually is.

The week of reshoots have come off absolutely seamless. The film feels like it was always meant for Christopher Plummer, and it turns out he was Ridley Scott’s first choice all along. Plummer manages to make Getty into a cold egomaniac who isn’t entirely unrelatable. His decisions may seem heartless and baffling, but then again it’s also hard to argue with his success. It would be all too easy to turn Getty into some sort of moustache-twirling cartoon character, but the legendary Plummer fills him with life in such a marvelous way that he has fully earned any and all awards attention he receives.

It’s rare that Michelle Williams ISN’T singled out for delivering a stunning performance, and I wouldn’t dare break that trend now. It does not matter the quality of the film, she is always a magnificent presence whose very appearance improves the whole project.

Mark Wahlberg is a little uncharacteristic in this film, in that it feels like he’s actually acting. He has been great in films like The Fighter before, but there’s always something in the performance that feels too much like Mark Wahlberg and not enough like the character. I wouldn’t argue that this is his best performance, but it’s the first time I’ve noticed him genuinely separating from himself.

All The Money In The World is a film that may not ever escape the shadow of the recasting controversy, which is something of a shame because Ridley Scott actually managed to pull it off. I’m so glad that this is the version of the film that we received, although the circumstances are obviously not ideal. Now as long as Scott can calm down with his ideas for a third Blade Runner (please no don’t do that) and keep on track, he can turn around this middling spell.

All The Money In The World: 7/10

Nick Potter

Co-founder of The Filmsmiths. Degree in Broadcast & Cinematic Arts with a minor in Cinema Studies from Central Michigan University. Pretty much the barbecue sauce of people but I'm doing my best.

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