All The Money In The World: Scott and Williams team up to give an engaging drama
The film would probably go down as the most important film in the post-Weinstein era.
All the money in the world rests in Ridley Scott's new film. The Rome and mostly Italian setting gives Scott the leeway to focus on priceless art and historic iconography. Early on, there is a conversation between J Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), the richest, most frugal man in the world at that time, and his grandson John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer as the teenage Getty III and Charlie Shotwell as the younger kid) about a Minotaur that the patriarch claims to be worth more than a million. And he argues that nothing is priceless or invaluable, that one can stick a price tag on just about anything. The Italian paparazzi agrees with him. They would pay Gail (Michelle Williams), mother of Getty III, to use the picture of her son's ear, that the kidnappers have mailed in. Inspired by true events, the film follows this tussle between the senior Getty and his ex-daughter-in-law, his unwillingness to part with the money and dealing with it the way he is used to, with oil price negotiations in Africa and Middle-East.
Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg
Director: Ridley Scott
J Paul Getty's parsimony is so legendary that he apparently had a pay phone installed in his estate - for visitors and businessmen - after phone bills shot up. The butler doubles up as a human coin dispenser. We see this phone in the film when Gail is forced to use the phone to call her attorney for any updates from the kidnappers. She's already incensed over being made to wait to meet Getty but when she gets out of the booth, she forgets her handbag. Gail goes back to collect it, but her thoughts are all with her son. Were this any other day and she may not have been mindful of that bag, which probably contains money (We learn later that Gail is behind on her rent payments). This is something Getty would have never done. Losing sight of money, of possession that came by way of money is alien to him. Rome and Italy dazzle with museums and incredible architecture, but Getty’s estate in England, with his art collection co-inhabiting with a phone booth, looks seedy and sombre. Scott stages this scene at a perfect moment, both Gail and us realising what everyone - Getty III, Gail, the kidnappers - is up against.
Writer David Scarpa and Scott, in their search for compassion away from the mother, go to the initial abductor, Cinquanta (Romain Duris), who as time passes and he loses leverage, is forced to sell the whole idea to a bigger organisation. By then he's shared a smoke with Getty III, found him to be kindred spirit, and develops pity and affection for the boy. Duris gives them a winning performance, initially scathing and later helpless as he doubles up as the mafia's negotiator with Gail and Chase (Mark Wahlberg), offering them practical advice, not sounding one bit nefarious. For a film that focuses on characters and relationships more than the plot, Scott brings in a quiet but steady pace, keeping things in motion, leaving Gail and Chase often breathless with impatience, with nowhere to run and no funds to turn to.
All The Money In The World would probably go down as the most important film in the post-Weinstein era. The effort and implications are huge. The sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey - the original J Paul Getty in the film - came to light in October 2017 with the film's premiere scheduled mid-November and release on December 22. Only someone with the clout of Scott could have pulled off this coup. Nonetheless, the fact that it was pulled off, with the casting of Christopher Plummer, the elaborate re-shoots, Williams and Wahlberg agreeing to work for free for the re-shoots, and managing a release by end of December is unprecedented and statement-making. Plummer settles into the role of the irredeemable rich man comfortably, but it is Williams, with her quiet disposition betraying the inner struggles, who shines as the hapless Gail. Williams played the role of a mother who loses her young child in Manchester By the Sea, last year, a film pitched higher than this one, but to watch Williams in these two films would be a study in contrast, in masterclass.