All the Money in the World January 3, 2018
2 Hrs., 13 Mins.
work of his cast and crew, he threw caution to the wind and decided to recast Spacey’s part without delaying the movie’s planned release date. He selected Christopher Plummer – who Scott says was in the running for the part of J. Paul Getty long before production began anyway – and reshot all the scenes involving the character in just nine days.
Miraculously, everything came together swimmingly: in addition to reshoots coming about with no problems, the reception that’s followed has been largely positive, with the majority of the praise pushed in the direction of Plummer, who seems destined for an Oscar nod. (He’s also much better suited to the role than I imagine Spacey ever was.)
With post-production so tumultuous – and with its tidying up of that tumultuous post-production so impressively smooth and seamless – it’s easy to want All the Money in the World to be the masterpiece that overcame it all. The important piece of cinema that was almost derailed yet managed to fight for its right to survive. We should feel lucky to even be watching it!, we tell ourselves. That makes for a more satisfying narrative, after all.
But All the Money in the World is hardly Scott’s magnum opus: it's just a sufficient, well-shot thriller that feels as though it were made simply to provide its leading performers with roles meant to snatch Academy attention. Because the thrills are efficient and economic, and because the headliners are so exceptional (Plummer’s as good as all the reviews say, but a bewigged, plucky Michelle Williams is even better), though, the ever-obvious performative bait’s not such a big deal. Just don’t expect the film to be nearly as remarkable as its leads.
Could that have to do with the fact that we already know how much of it’s going to play out? All the Money in the World dramatizes the 1973, Italy-set kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (played here by Charlie Plummer), the 16-year-old grandson of the one-time richest man in the world, J. Paul Getty. The elder Getty infamously wouldn’t pay the $17 million ransom – “I have no money to spare,” he coldly says, only to buy a $1 million oil painting later on – and such forced his scrappy daughter-in-law Gail (Williams) to scramble to get the dough for herself.
This comes with lots of intense scenes meant to amplify all the race-against-time tensions. Plenty involve the kidnappers coolly planning which part of the grandson they’re going to cut off next (luckily they only get his ear by the end, though the handful of 60-something-year-old women sitting in front of me seemed more prone to hurling than seeing the bright side). Gail trying to keep her cool as her father-in-law, king of the miserable SOBs, reminds her once again that he cannot reserve even a penny to help the grandchild he supposedly loves so much. (Lasers shoot from her eyes whenever someone suggests she actually has money but is faking meager finances.) Moments where we think rescue’s imminent when it’s actually further than the striking down of world hunger.
All’s executed rather colorlessly. Can that predominantly be blamed on screenwriter David Scrapa’s making the movie a by-the-book kidnap thriller rather than the character study it’d be better off as? On cinematographer Dariusz Wolski’s draining this world of pigment in such a way that either suggests nihilism or the wastes of wealth (or both)? On our knowing what’s going to happen from the moment we pick out our spot in the back row? On never-prettier lead Mark Wahlberg, who’s so drab?
Scott doesn’t try to subvert or revitalize our expectations, so I suppose we can be grateful that the movie still comes with a certain amount of urgency and performative spunk. And some of the characterizations are effective; we despise the patriarchal Getty, sure, but we’re also intrigued by how much his bottomless money pit has turned him into a despicable lug greedier than Mr. Krabs. But take that away and you’re stuck with Argo’s (2012) amorphous cousin. Since Argo was so good, consider that a compliment. B-
idley Scott’s All the Money in the World (2017) should have been doomed. You know the story by now: with just a handful of weeks to go before its winter premiere, it was reported that supporting actor Kevin Spacey was a notorious sexual predator. The movie seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy or the upcoming Spacey-starring Gore Vidal biopic: quickly discarded or shelved altogether.
But Scott did the unthinkable. Turned off by the idea of squandering the hard