Ridley Scott’s controversial film All the Money in the World is both sickly compelling and stultefyingly long, writes Darren Bevan
It’s hard not to view All The Money In The World without the fog of controversy that’s clouded its admittedly quiet release ahead of the awards season in 2018.
The tale of the kidnapping of Paul Getty, inspired by true events and through the lens of Sir Ridley Scott, has been blighted since it was unleashed.
Wrapped in a furore after Kevin Spacey’s JP Getty had to be digitally removed and was recast as Christopher Plummer following sexual misconduct accusations against Spacey, the film was further hit by a row over pay parity when Wahlberg netted 1500 times more for his co-star Williams in subsequent reshoots.
Interestingly, what plays out on screen in the adaptation of John Pearson’s 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty is actually both sickly compelling and stultefyingly long.
For those unaware of the 1973 kidnapping of the 16-year-old Paul, grandson of oil tycoon JP Getty (Plummer, in a commanding and cruel presence from the moment he shows on screen) the story follows the back and forth between the kidnappers, Paul’s mum (Williams, all grace and clipped diction) and the investigator Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg, solid and dependable) hired by Getty to return the kid at the lowest cost.
Playing like an episode of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, the film’s strength comes from its performance of both Williams and Plummer – and a compassionate turn by French actor Romain Duris – rather than for the strength and depth of its story-telling.
A few flashbacks give some heft to the emotional backstory within, but Getty’s particular cruelty feels surface-deep, even if Plummer’s nuanced veneer bristles with intolerable cruelty and distinct inhumanity.
But the film’s strongest is Williams, a non-showy turn that has both poise and vulnerability as the mother caught between a tycoon determined to stand his ground and a situation threatening tragedy. A few lip trembles here and there amid a controlled performance from Williams grants the film the emotional edge it so sorely needs, and showing once again she’s an actress of fine form and prestige in whatever projects she chooses.
Ultimately, Scott’s chopping back and forth in the story robs it of some of its initial tension, though the suspense does build up at the expense of any true character depth – Wahlberg’s CIA agent is the worst served by the script and story choices.
In the final wash, All The Money In The World could have used some tighter editing. It’s a compelling, fascinating story, but bereft of some of its richer emotional edges, teetering dangerously close to indifference.
All The Money In The World
Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris
Director: Ridley Scott