“We need to pay the ransom, Mr. Getty,” says Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg). “I do not have the money to spare,” answers J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), the richest man in the entire world as he refuses to pay the ransom for his kidnapped grandson in the dramatic film All the Money in the World.
All the Money in the World is set in 1973 and is inspired by the true story of the kidnapping of then 16-year-old John Paul Getty III by masked men in Rome. After abducting the teen off the street, the kidnappers call the boy’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), and demand $17 million for his safe return. “I don’t have any money,” says Gail, obviously in shock when she receives the phone call informing her of the kidnapping. The kidnapper then suggests what seems obvious. “Get it from your father-in-law. He has all the money in the world.”
When J. Paul Getty learns about his grandson’s kidnapping from his personal secretary, he refuses to be disturbed while he looks over the today’s figures from the opening of the market. Later when reporters ask him on live television how much he’s willing to pay to get his grandson back, he answers, “Nothing.” This reply prompts a stunned-but-determined Gail to visit her estranged ex-father-in-law in person.
Gail’s kept cooling her heels at Getty’s estate and then is finally introduced to ex-CIA operative Fletcher Chase. Chase now works for Getty, handling his security as well as some shady foreign deals. Chase informs Gail he’s going to work with her to get her son back, at the request of J. Paul Getty.
As Paul’s held hostage for months, the kidnappers grow increasingly anxious about the diminishing possibility of collecting the ransom. They become more ruthless and even begin to bargain down the ransom to make it happen quicker. When Chase is finally able to rule out the kidnapping as a prank or an attempt by the boy and his mother to score a payday from Getty, he becomes a strong and unlikely ally to Gail in the fight with the kidnappers and with the uncaring and self-absorbed J. Paul Getty in bringing Paul home alive.
Directed by Ridley Scott and based on a true story, All the Money in the World is an engrossing and dramatic thriller that’s made even more effective by the compelling performances of Michelle Williams as Gail Harris and Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty.
Williams delivers a masterful performance as Gail, the distraught, desperate, and determined mother who’s at the mercy of the ruthless strangers who’ve kidnapped her son. She’s also at the mercy of her former father-in-law who’s driven by the pursuit of wealth and security the same way Ebenezer Scrooge was in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. She perfectly portrays all the different emotions Gail goes through, from shock to fear, anger, disgust, rage, hope, and so many more. It’s truly a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Plummer delivers another memorable performance as he seamlessly replaces Kevin Spacey in the role as Getty. Every scene with Plummer as he displays Getty’s obsession with wealth and his resentment towards Gail for divorcing his son is flawless and at times unnerving. He’s also terrific in playing Getty’s disappointment as he realizes all hope’s lost in his dream of having his grandson follow in his footsteps. Plummer captures vividly how empty and void Getty is of sympathy or empathy of his own family’s pain and horror.
Another performance worthy of praise is delivered by Romain Duris as the kidnapper Cinquanta. Cinquanta made the phone calls to Gail and stayed close to Paul, actually feeling more sympathy toward the teenager than Paul’s own grandfather was able to display. Duris shows how over time Cinquanta gets to like and care about his young captive and eventually becomes more interested in making sure Paul gets home alive to his mother than getting any money for his hostage.
The editing, reshooting, and replacing of all of Kevin Spacey’s scenes was necessary after a flurry of sexual assault allegations against Spacey became public. Plummer stepped in at the last minute, and his integration into the film as the senior Getty is impressive. The change in actors is so smooth that no one would ever be able to tell none of Plummer’s scenes were in the original cut of the film.
The only real drawback in All the Money in the World is Mark Wahlberg’s performance as the ex-CIA operative. He has zero chemistry with either Plummer or Williams, and his portrayal of the man who’s supposedly an expert in this line of work comes off wooden and stilted.
Still, with two powerful performances by Williams and Plummer and the expert direction of Scott, All the Money in the World is ultimately a gripping and intriguing film that realistically displays the human drama of the kidnapping and the overwhelming, incomprehensible greed of J. Paul Getty.
Running Time: 132 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content
Release Date: December 25, 2017