All the Money in the World Review
John Paul Getty had all the money in the world and not a penny to spare — not even to save his grandson
All the Money in the World is based on the true story of Paul Getty’s kidnapping and the media circus that developed around his grandfather’s refusal to pay the whopping $17 million ransom.For a film that suffered a major re-casting of a lead role just six weeks prior to its release, All The Money In The World doesn’t bare any signs of a slap dash, cut and paste job at all. Of course most people are probably all too aware of the reasons behind director Ridley Scott’s (and the production companies no doubt) decision to reshoot certain scenes, replacing Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer as John Paul Getty, and it doesn’t require going into detail about it here, aside from to say that it all worked out. All The Money In The World tells the story of Paul Getty’s (Charlie Plummer) kidnapping off of the streets in Italy during 1973. Grandson to one of the richest men in the world at the time, John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) the US oil tycoon, one would be correct in thinking that getting Paul back would be quick and easy.
However, Paul’s parents Abigail Harris (Michelle Williams) and John Paul Getty Jr. (Andrew Buchan) split ways with sole custody of the children going to Abigail who received no alimony. Without the bursting bank account of her former Getty family Abigail is unable to cough up the $17 million ransom that her son’s kidnappers are demanding. With no other option Abigail resorts to asking her once father-in-law, who is far from frivolous with his money, if he will be able to help. Getty Sr. flat out refuses to pay his grandson’s ransom saying, more or less, that by paying the ransom he would only be encouraging the kidnapping of his other grandchildren. But Getty Sr. is not all heart of stone and does enlist the help of his ex-CIA advisor, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to go back to Italy with Abigail and get his grandson back – at the smallest cost possible of course.
Based on the book Painfully Rich by John Pearson and written for the screen by David Scarpa, All The Money In The World had the criteria to be a totally terrific and absorbing tale of family scandal and misfortune. But somehow things just don’t pan out that way. The general pacing of the film is quite slow, which for a hostage film hinders any sense of urgency or impending danger. This for the most part comes from the way Paul’s mother Abigail is portrayed. Despite flying back and forth between England and Italy Abigail doesn’t seem to be doing much to try and get her son back. Like wise, with Fletcher Chase who’s ex-CIA, one might think that at some point things are going to kick off, especially during one scene set in an Italian village at night but it never does.
The decision to forgo a clear timeframe to map out the duration of Paul’s kidnapping seems to take something away from the horrific ordeal that he would have been forced to endure. More time seeing things from Paul’s point of view would have allowed for more investment into his character and an emotional response that was lacking throughout. Scott does use time stamps but predominantly only when he flashes back to details of Getty Sr. amassing his fortune and of his son’s foray into the world of drugs and alcohol.
Interesting for the most part, despite dragging in places
The real saving grace that All The Money In The World has to offer is mainly through the performances from the cast, namely Christopher Plummer who seems as though he was destined to play this role all along. He fits perfectly within his stately homes and priceless antiques and delivers his lines with utter control and believability. Williams is likewise good in her role as Abigail however there is an element of stiffness to her character for some reason, almost like she was never fully giving it her all. Wahlberg is fine as Fletcher Chase the smooth talker of Getty Sr. who plays this part very straight but again lacks some urgency. No-one seemed entirely concerned that a young boy had been kidnapped and potentially had his life under threat which really detracted from the films ability to suck the audience in.
All The Money In The World would perhaps be better suited to a mini-series so that characters could be fleshed out a lot more, and more attention paid to the ways the family dealt with the kidnapping afterwards. I have not read the book the film is based on so I cannot comment on it’s accuracy but there are a couple of points in the film where Scott has played around with the timeline for narrative purposes and has obviously added and changed some of the events for dramatic effect — which is highlighted at the film's end. Which begs the question why? After a quick google search the original and true story seems to have enough juicy tidbits and scandal as well as the kidnapping to make for an engrossing movie or mini-series (interestingly Danny Boyle is heading up a mini-series based on the Gettys and the kidnapping set to be released this year). The film could have been a lot better than it came out as it does drag in places. That said, it is interesting and there are some good performances - perhaps not something necessary to see at the cinema, but worth a watch all the same.
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