Released: January 5th 2018 (UK)
Length: 133 Minutes
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris and Marco Leonardi
The rich and powerful have often taken centre stage in film, whether it’s gangsters living it up on wealth earned through crime or narcissistic moguls who flaunt their power and dominance over others. Having already obtained some experience in adapting real events with Black Hawk Down, Ridley Scott turns to the world of the wealthy elite with a tremendously well-executed drama.
Taking place in the 1970s, All the Money in the World is based on the real-life kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (played by Charlie Plummer), the grandson of the richest man in the world; J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), who made his fortune from oil in Saudi Arabia. When confronted with the kidnapping of a close family member, he chooses not to pay the ransom for his release and so begins a desperate and drawn-out series of negotiations led by the young Paul’s mother Gail (Michelle Williams) and supported by former CIA operative Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg). While there’s a few fast-paced moments strewn about the narrative, ATMITW is tightly focused, homing in on the verbal sparring and cutting between Paul’s predicament and those trying to rescue him. There’s a consistent tension as the situation grows more sinister and efforts by Gail to obtain the money end in failure. On top of that, the film’s themes feel especially relevant, with Getty senior endlessly hoarding his wealth, having no shame for his greed and disdain for his own family, the control he wields is on display throughout the film and this continues to complicate Paul’s release. One sequence involving the young Paul around halfway through the film sees the tension boil over into action with suitably nerve-wreaking results.
The characters of All the Money in the World are all especially memorable and what makes each of the three leads work is their duality; Michelle Williams maintains a surprising level of composure in her character’s public appearances, while privately the stress over wanting her son back only builds over the course of the film. The man at the centre of it all is Christopher Plumer (who replaced Kevin Spacey close to release for the right reasons) as J. Paul Getty, an incredibly powerful performance all-around. Whenever he’s on screen, Plumer demonstrates a commanding presence that every other character takes note of; you fully believe that the richest man in the world at that time was also the most influential. But then there are also moments where Getty senior is the only character on set and this, through the actor’s excellent expressions, shows that even with all his wealth he ironically has very little. Lastly Mark Wahlberg plays Getty’s right-hand man Fletcher Chase, a man clearly dedicated to his job with authoritative mannerisms but there’s also a side to him that maybe resents working for the rich which fuels his own character arc. The side performances are no slouch either; Romain Duris’ two-faced performance as the kidnapper Cinquanta adds an element of unpredictability to the proceedings. Finally, Charlie Plummer captures the growing unease and horror of his character’s abduction and despite his reckless lifestyle, you are still intrigued as to how his ordeal will pan out.
While grounded in its time period, All the Money in the World works hard to make a mark on the viewer with its presentation. The film’s colour palette is very desaturated and monochrome, highlighting both the distance John Getty has from his peers and the sinister circumstances his grandson finds himself in. The camerawork is simple and straightforward, mostly making use of basic pans to relay the action to the audience while music is minimal throughout, heightening the realism and only relying on classical numbers and real instruments to generate more weight in the film’s climax. The level of detail in the environments reaches exquisite, near obsessive highs, with specific props around the sets reflecting the never-ending reach of Paul Getty Senior’s wants and desires. It’s a setting that feels very disconnected from the wild milling about and speculation surrounding Paul junior’s kidnapping which enhances the main themes even more. It’s all a brilliant complement to the story and characters.
With three superb performances, a smoothly presented style and a heaping of tension, All the Money in the World is a masterfully produced, tautly focused thriller; one which sustains its realism while asking questions of the power elite that can still be applied today. If you have any kind of interest in the dramatic thriller genre, you can’t afford to miss it.
Rating: 5/5 Stars (Exceptional)