So this is my first official new release of the year and with this one, I had absolutely no idea what it was actually about going in, but was of course aware of the fact that this was the infamous film where Kevin Spacey was replaced by Christopher Plummer at the last moment, having to reshoot all of his scenes with only a week before the final deadline.
Based on real events, All the Money in the World centres around the oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty
(Kevin Spacey Christopher Plummer), the richest American who ever lived, whose grandson is abducted while in Rome, leading to the kidnappers demanding seventeen million dollars from Getty for his grandson’s return. But while his mother Gail (Michelle Williams) is willing to do almost anything to get the boy back, Getty refuses to pay the money and as the kidnappers start running short of patience, with the threat of bodily harm becoming more apparent, Gail and security advisor Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) take it upon themselves to locate Getty’s grandson and to somehow find the money for his safe return.
Well, where else to start? In the film’s now notorious main role,
Kevin Spacey Christopher Plummer is the best thing about this film – despite perhaps initially seeing him as “the replacement”, Plummer soon completely makes the role his own so that by the end, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else playing the part. As Getty, he is calm, collected, charismatic and cold (not alliterating on purpose, I promise!) and we hang on his every word as he dominates the screen, sharing some excellent chemistry with both Williams and Wahlberg. His character constantly refuses to cough up the money and we can’t believe just how obstinate and selfish he is as we see him expressing bitterness and unjustified vengeance towards his daughter-in-law, taking more of an interest in his possessions rather than the wellbeing of his own grandson.
But despite all of this, he’s never an unlikable character and does indeed show humanity and uncertainty at certain points, managing to not simply be a ruthless, unfeeling, nasty villain but instead a flawed human being; there’s also a final revelation that somewhat explains why he didn’t pay the money in the first place. Overall, the abandonment of Kevin Spacey may have very well been a blessing in disguise as Plummer completely owns the role and is the film’s main attraction; it’s actually a shame that he wasn’t in it a little bit more, though given the circumstances, that would almost definitely have been impossible.
Alongside him, Michelle Williams is a fine fit as the unwavering, determined mother who wants nothing to do with the Getty empire and just wants her family to be together; Williams shows all the necessary courage and resilience and although it’s far from her best role (I thought her accent slipped a couple of times – I’m positive she adopted a Brooklyn accent for a brief second!) she provides all the heart and is a good counterbalance to
Spacey’s Plummer’s Getty. Mark Wahlberg also does well as the former CIA operative who assists in bringing the kid back, but the role could really have been played by anyone.
All the Money in the World is competently directed by Ridley Scott as he manages to establish a dramatic mood (with a few scenes of bold violence), the film has some good visuals and he’s even able to throw in some comedy into the mix a couple of times, breaking some of the dryer scenes when necessary. It seems as though with this film, he was influenced by Federico Fellini, given the overall aesthetic as well as the many instances of the La Dolce Vita inspired paparazzi and the “ladies of the night”, reminiscent of Cabiria.
And yes, although you may start watching this film in full “eagle eye mode”, the film is edited well enough that you probably won’t notice the reshoots that needed to be done. (Although I’m positive that there’s an early, far-away shot of Getty getting off a train where it’s Spacey, not Plummer – this was also mentioned on the IMDB trivia page, so I suppose I was right!)
But while the acting’s great and the film looks pretty good, the film has troubles because the story isn’t all that interesting and the leisurely pace and bloated runtime result in the film being quite boring and patience testing. Maybe this is the kind of film that only works if you’re genuinely interested in the subject matter but for me, I thought that the story was inescapably dry and uninteresting; I hadn’t actually heard of J. P. Getty beforehand and while I left the film a little bit more informed, it did nothing to stimulate my interest in learning more about him. The film is at its best when Getty is on screen but when it moves away from him, focusing on the investigation and the constant search for the money and whatnot, not a lot actually happens and this side of the story soon becomes your standard kidnapping story and it is all fairly conventional, often dull and boring. For me, although certain moments provided sparks of interest, there were long stretches where I couldn’t stop yawning due to the dry, unexciting source material, the often gruelling pace and the overall length of the film.