All the Money in the World movie review: Ridley Scott just made history, and eviscerated Kevin Spacey
All the Money in the World
Director - Ridley Scott
Cast - Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer
Rating - 3/5
Right now the wounds are too fresh. The gashes are still too raw, too shudder-inducing to look at. So, a shameful glance is really the best we can do. But in a few years, when the scars have healed, we can all reflect on the time when Ridley Scott made history.
To put matters into perspective, in October, All the Money in the World had been locked, another “on-time and under-budget” production for Scott; a trailer had been released and a prestigious screening at the AFI Fest had been announced. It was no secret that the studio would be pursuing an aggressive Oscar campaign for star Kevin Spacey. Everything firmly in place, Ridley Scott had even moved on to his next film. But then, the bomb dropped.
It’s one thing for an actor to be cut from a movie — it’s basically a right of passage, as many would attest. It’s even acceptable for an actor to not be made aware that they’ve been cut from a movie (just ask Adrien Brody, who realised his starring role in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line had been reduced to two lines while watching it for the first time at a screening).
But in a way, Kevin Spacey deserves what happened to him — a silent evisceration. Days after he was outed as a predatory monster, Scott made the frankly unprecedented decision to replace him, with Christopher Plummer — his first choice for the role — to reshoot each of Spacey’s 22 scenes, and still meet the release date, which was at that point barely a month away. He managed it in nine days, the “two-take Charlie” that he is. And the movie we’ve got now — as mind-boggling as it may be to believe — completed filming only a month ago.
None of this, however, means anything at all if the finished film isn’t up to the mark, and unfortunately, at least half of it isn’t. It’s seamless, no doubt — to the layperson, apart from a couple of rushed green screen shots, there isn’t much evidence of the cinematic switcheroo that happened — but boy, does it take its time.
Like the best stories, All the Money in the World is based on a true one. In 1973, John Paul Getty III was kidnapped in Rome. He was 16 years old, but more pertinently, he was the grandson of the richest man in the (history of the) world, the oil baron, John Paul Getty.
Paul, as he liked to be called, was whisked away to a mountain hideout, and soon, a ransom note demanding $17 million was received. His mother, who had divorced her husband and Paul’s father, John Paul Getty II, was essentially penniless. Salvation, as everyone would soon learn, much to their displeasure, lay in the hands of the senior Getty — and famously, his answer was “No.”
It took two paragraphs (and 5 minutes) to write this information. And it is all the information you need before watching the movie. No part of it is too complicated. Broadly speaking, there are only three people involved, and each of them belongs to the same family. All of this is to say that there was no reason for All the Money in the World to spend close to an hour repeating information we already know — Gail (Michelle Williams) needs $17 million to free her son, and her famously miserly ex-father-in-law refuses to give her the money.
It’s easy to look at John Paul Getty (and the proudly dynastic Getty clan) as a sort of symbol for the Donald Trumps of the world — arrogant, entitled and petty. It’s easy to picture Michelle Williams’ character — who is in many ways the film’s central figure, and the perfect emotional foil to the very clinical Getty — as a challenger to the very notion of old money (it’s there in her accent). But if there were any underlying themes in All the Money in the World, they were lost for the better part of an hour under the murky, de-saturated visuals of Scott’s longtime director of photography Dariusz Wolski, a slovenly pace, and the curious decision to leave the film largely devoid of any sort of music.
To make matters more difficult, this is in no way a bad film. In fact, towards the end, it’s rather enjoyable. The poor pacing and messy editing that plagued the first couple of acts are substituted for a thrilling finale, and every character is given their moment to shine.
Interestingly, as magnetic as Christopher Plummer is in his surprisingly substantial role, it’s Romain Duris’ character, the low-level kidnapper Cinquanta, who exhibits any sort of relatable human emotion. His arc in the film — elevated by Duris’ fiery performance — is one of the few signs that All the Money in the World has its morals in the right place.
Disappointingly though, there is no mention of the great American tragedy that played out after the events shown in the movie. At the risk of coming across as someone who likes handing out homework, I urge you to revisit this case, but only after having watched the movie — if only to see just how easily it could have turned out differently.
Watch the trailer for All the Money in the World here