Shortly before the release date of All the Money in the World, Ridley Scott made the abrupt decision to reshoot every scene involving Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of J. Paul Getty with Christopher Plummer recast in the role instead after many sexual assault allegations have been levelled against Spacey. But even if Kevin Spacey hadn’t already been a sexual predator beforehand, the decision to cast him – a 58-year-old man under heavy old man makeup in order to play an 80-year-old J. Paul Getty never made sense. So how exactly does Ridley Scott manage to make All the Money in the World work the way it did? It’s still something I’m wondering but the rate at which Ridley Scott is continuously working is among many things that I’ve always admired about the filmmaker.
Telling the true story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, All the Money in the World sets this as a backdrop in order to tell another tale about the effects of capitalism on morality. Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg lead the way as Abigail Harris and former CIA operative Fletcher Chase as they find themselves inside a race against time to talk J. Paul Getty to pay the ransom money required for John’s release. But this isn’t so much a story about Getty himself, it’s about the consequences to which his own ego can consume him all the more especially when he is inside a position where he sees no character flaws within himself. If Ridley Scott had stuck with that, then this would be one of his best films but there’s only so much that he can show to the point that it ends up going far too long.
If you are looking for the cinematic equivalent of a school assignment in which one mistake was corrected at the last minute, All the Money in the World seems like the perfect fit because of the fact that Ridley Scott somehow managed to erase Kevin Spacey’s presence just from the fact that he recast Christopher Plummer in the role only a month before the film’s scheduled release. And with that having been said, Christopher Plummer’s performance is the highlight, because of the cold subtlety that he presents as he portrays J. Paul Getty – a businessman who cared only about his money at the expense of his own family. The leads are all as great as you would expect each of them to be, with Michelle Williams and Plummer being the obvious highlights but of course Mark Wahlberg, who I’ve never particularly been a fan of outside of Boogie Nights comes in as the weak link.
But going back to my own analogy of how this is film is the cinematic equivalent of a school paper where a single mistake was corrected at the last minute, it’s still evident that there’s a whole lot more that can be fixed. For one I’ve always had an issue with Ridley Scott’s storytelling being either very heavy handed or unfocused, and it was clear enough from the overuse of the score or the rather tame screenplay. Scott’s directorial output since Alien and Blade Runner has always been incredibly hit-or-miss despite his continually admirable intentions, and it’s clear he shows himself at his best when focusing on smaller moments that center around Michelle Williams’s pleas to spare the life of John Paul Getty III rather than the procedure to rescue him, where otherwise it turns into a generic action film. But given as the material Scott is working with is incredibly tame, it also makes for choppily edited sequences coming one after another.
Given the subject matter you can only expect a more vicious political approach coming forward but it’s clear how afraid this movie is to go into that area. But when Ridley Scott is showing his best by making so much within small moments, those moments are enough to make the film worth your time – because it’s where Ridley Scott is able to bring the most from his own cast members. But nevertheless, knowing how Ridley Scott managed to pull off a quick reshoot only a month before the film’s actual release only makes him all the more respectable if anything else could be said. It’s among many reasons that All the Money in the World is worth watching, but even with that set aside, I was on board with it for the most part.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Sony.
Directed by Ridley Scott
Screenplay by David Scarpa, from Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson
Produced by Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis, Dan Friedkin, Mark Huffam, Ridley Scott, Bradley Thomas, Kevin J. Walsh
Starring Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Plummer, Romain Duras, Charlie Plummer
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 133 minutes