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All the Money in the World (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

All the Money in the World


Starring Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton, Charlie Shotwell, Andrew Buchan, Marco Leonardi, Giuseppe Bonifati, Nicholas Vaporidis, Kit Cranston, Maya Kelly, Andrea Piedimonte, Guglielmo Favilla, Nicola Di Chio, Adele Tirante, Alessandra Roca and Francesca Inaudi.

Screenplay by David Scarpa.

Directed by Ridley Scott.

Distributed by Sony Pictures. 132 minutes. Rated R.

The 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, though a big story at the time, was pretty much forgotten by the world at large until very recently. For a short time, this kind of attack was fashionable in underworld circles – this hostage situation happened shortly before fellow heir Patty Hearst was also taken captive – the relative of an obscenely rich man held as a way to extort money from the tycoon.

Suddenly, however, possibly due to the political climate the story has been rediscovered. (Is it a coincidence I saw the movie the same day the Trump tax scam with all its benefits for the massively wealthy passed the Senate?) The Getty kidnapping is the basis of not only this film, which was made with a distinctly short turn-around time of well less than a year from conception to screen, but it will also be the subject of a limited TV series called Trust on FX, created by acclaimed British director Danny Boyle, which starts in January.

In fact, this movie’s quick turnaround has become one of the reasons that it is most newsworthy. The film was completely filmed with Kevin Spacey in the role of the senior J. Paul Getty when the sexual harassment charges towards Spacey became public knowledge a couple of months ago. Director Ridley Scott decided, with a just matter of weeks before the movie’s release date, to refilm all of Spacey’s scenes with Christopher Plummer replacing him in the role of the Getty patriarch.

We’ll probably never know what Spacey had done with the role, but Plummer does a fine job in humanizing an unlikable skinflint. (Honestly, Plummer was more age appropriate for the billionaire, anyway.)

So if this was just one of several big kidnapping cases, why does this one stand out to be filmed? Well, many reasons, really, but perhaps the most dramatic of those reasons is that for a long time, Getty – who was the richest man in the world at the time – refused to pay ransom to get this grandson back. Even when he did agree to pay it off, at a greatly reduced rate, he would only do it when his business managers figured out a way that he could use the ransom as a tax write-off. (Not discussed in this film, but the guy would only pay part of the ransom, for those tax purposes, the rest he loaned to his estranged son, the kidnapped boy’s father at 4% interest.)

In a period of history when Gordon Gekko’s worldview of “Greed is good” is quickly becoming quaint, when people like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson can buy or sell their own governments (thanks a lot, Citizens United), J. Paul Getty was a poster child for the out of control 1%.

Getty’s entire life revolved around money; making it, protecting it, hoarding it. It beggars the question: How much money is enough? Is any amount too much? Getty did not use his money to make himself happy or more comfortable. And God forbid it be suggested that he spend money to help others – not the world at large, or even his own flesh and blood.

In fairness to the old man, his son had long before been divorced by the kidnapped teen’s mother Gail (Michelle Williams) and it can’t be said that the old man knew his grandson (Charlie Plummer, who is not related to Christopher) well. Still, the young boy was his grandchild, and he was subjected to mental, and then physical torture when the old man refused to pay.

What the tycoon did do for the mother and son is loan her his head of security (Mark Wahlberg), who at first is a bit skeptical about the kidnapping, but eventually does play a significant role in getting the teen rescued, despite pushback from the old man.

All the Money in the World plays a little fast and loose with the truth for dramatic purposes. No matter what the film says, J. Paul Getty did not die on the same day his grandson was being released. The elder Getty’s death was two and a half years later, and apparently in no way connected to his guilt about the kidnapping. Honestly, suggesting it was feels a little heavy-handed for such a smart look at the case.

All the Money in the World is a smart movie that works on two levels – both as a smart and tense thriller and also as a trenchant commentary on the evils of overpowering greed.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: December 25, 2017.


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