It’s unfortunate that most will remember Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World for the gutsy decision to replace a scandal-ridden Kevin Spacey with another Oscar winner Christopher Plummer. Lost in all of this drama are fantastic performances by Plummer and Michelle Williams plus the type of direction that wins awards. Add in a masterfully crafted narrative, and the result is a highly engrossing thriller.
The storyline centers around the abduction of John Paul Getty’s (Plummer) grandson and the circumstances behind the reported ransom. Getty feels that he’s the real the victim and the kidnappers are just using Gail (Williams) the child’s mother only to fleece him. Rather than give the initial request of 17 million dollars for the child’s release, Getty brings his “fixer,” former CIA Operative Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to negotiate with the kidnappers. The kidnapping quickly takes a back seat to a battle of wills between Getty and Gail with Chase being stuck in the middle.
Williams plays her character perfectly. Behind closed doors, Gail is losing her mind. She’s frustrated by the perception that if you have the Getty name that it equals wealth. When dealing with Getty, she dials back these emotions because that approach won’t melt her former father in-law’s icy demeanor. This is the type of performance we are accustomed to seeing from the actress and indeed, more than makes up for her work in The Greatest Showman.
It’s hard to imagine another person playing Getty after Plummer’s performance. The makeup on Spacey’s face made him look like a creature from some far distant world. Plummer projects such a cold demeanor and ruthlessness that it’s hard not to despise the man. Even the glare he gives his youngest grandchildren as they write out responses to the mountain of requests for financial help would burn a hole through anyone. In any other year, Plummer would be the odds-on favorite to take home the Oscar, but the category of Supporting Actor is quite competitive this year.
Scott doesn’t appear to get in the way of his cast allowing their performances to take center stage.The only time where we see any semblance of the director’s imprint is evident is during some of the action sequences which had an American Gangster flair to them. David Scarpa skillfully adapts this story by allowing us glimpses inside the mind of Getty. For example, not only showcases the ruthlessness of Plummer’s character, but we also get a glimpse of how frugal he was. We are treated to a scene where Getty is washing his underwear and socks in the bathtub to avoid having to spend frivolously. This does provide a glimpse into why Getty might be resistant to paying a ransom because he views it as an expense that’s unnecessary (even if it is his family).
In the end, All The Money In The World indeed hasn’t received the same buildup as some of Scott’s other projects, but it could gain the most recognition of his storied career. The narrative is engrossing, the performances are fantastic, and the direction makes this release well worth the price of admission.