All the Money in the World (MA15+)

In a word: Compelling

 

All the Money in the World 

Christopher Plummer stars as J Paul Getty in All the Money in the World.

 

"It's an at times intense movie - there's a couple of moments which justify the MA rating (after all, this is a story of a kidnapping) - but its strength lies in the characters depicted (and the fact that what we're seeing is to at least some extent based on real events). A modern parable of sorts about the lure of extreme wealth and the price that must be paid to obtain it."

The kidnapping of the grandson of American oil tycoon J Paul Getty in 1973 - the subject of this deftly crafted film - was an event that made headlines around the world. So it should probably come as no surprise that a director of the calibre of Ridley Scott would turn his hand to making a film about the kidnap which also uses those events as a springboard to explore wider issues.

This film - the making of which incidentally made its own headlines when Kevin Spacey, who had been selected to play the role of John Paul Getty, was replaced by Christopher Plummer after allegations of inappropriate behaviour made headlines of their own last year - is a well-constructed period piece which closely follows the events of 1973 against the broader backstory of the Getty family.

John Paul Getty III (known as Paul and played by Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher) was just 16-years-old when he was plucked off the streets of Rome and held for a ransom which was initially put at $US17 million and which his billionaire grandfather refused to pay.

The story follows Paul's mother Gail (played by Michelle Williams) - she had divorced JPG's drug-addicted and alcoholic son, John Paul Getty, Jr (Andrew Buchan), some time earlier - in her efforts to have her ex-father-in-law pay the money to have her son released. She's assisted by Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg), a former spy who now works in a security capacity for Mr Getty senior and whom he sends to her aid (while still refusing to pay up).

Initially kidnapped by some low level crooks out to make a buck and led by a thief with a conscience called Cinquanta (Romain Duris), the grandson soon finds himself passed into the hands of more serious criminals as negotiations to have him released drag on (and the danger he is in grows correspondingly).

It's the fine performances of Christopher Plummer - who makes the role of the heartless patriarch who believes he's the reincarnation of the Emperor Hadrian his own - and that of Williams as the increasingly desperate mother which make this a movie worth seeing (although one wonders what Spacey would have made of the role). Charlie Plummer puts in a strong performance as the somewhat clueless 16-year-old rich-kid-come-kidnap-victim while Wahlberg is solid in a role which doesn't really challenge him.

While this is essentially a story of a kidnapping, it's some of the commentary on broader issues raised here that help to make this a fascinating film beyond merely a thriller. In a sense it's a family tragedy, a story of children sacrificed to one man's obsession with accumulating wealth he'd never spend. And there's also some important moral questions raised here about wealth and tax minimisation - questions which remain particularly resonant in today's world.

It's an at times intense movie - there's a couple of moments which justify the MA rating (after all, this is a story of a kidnapping) - but its strength lies in the characters depicted (and the fact that what we're seeing is to at least some extent based on real events). A modern parable of sorts about the lure of extreme wealth and the price that must be paid to obtain it.