All the Money in the World Review

The shadow of the recent Kevin Spacey scandal threatened to loom large over Ridley Scott's latest release. Even with All the Best Will in the World, the story about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty's 16-year-old grandson seem destined to be confined to the scrapheap. But who are we to doubt the skilled hand of Ridley? The quality of his output has dipped badly over the past decade or so but there are few who can shoot and wrap quite so efficiently. With Christopher Plummer onboard to replace Spacey, and Wahlberg and Williams called back in, the extra scenes were shot in an incredible nine day period, and the end result doesn't reveal a hint of its outside problems anywhere onscreen.

The words 'inspired by' appear before and after the opening and closing credits, on the off chance we fail to understand the many liberties taken with the real-life events. Given how stodgy the thriller aspects become later in the film you would assume most people will be able differentiate fact from fiction. The film recalls the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, although no relation to Christopher) in Italy in 1973, the heir apparent to the then richest man on the planet. Christopher Plummer plays the miserly role of John Paul Getty so naturally it's as if there was never any consideration given to casting another actor. The oil tycoon may have had more zeros in his bank account than there are minutes in the day, but that didn't mean the megalomaniac was ready to spend it without driving the hardest of bargains.

Italian gangsters set a ransom of $17 million for the release of his grandson, a fee which Getty senior flatly refused to pay. Paul’s mother, Abigail Harris (Michelle Williams), who married into the family through one of the billionaire's sons, may be Getty by surname but appears to have had little interest in the affluence so closely associated with the family. Her frustrations with the old man steadily grow as he continually refuses to cough up, and aided by Getty's ex-CIA security advisor, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), they attempt to lower the ransom price, a slow process that continues for months on end.

Getty is made out as the clear villain of the piece to almost cartoonish proportions at times and Plummer revels in the influence his character has over everyone else's actions around him. Such is the strength of his performance, we too are left waiting on his every deliberate word as much as anyone else. Ridley spends enough time establishing the back story to the family dynamics behind the empire and attempts to get inside a fortified mind which seems to place the protection of his fortune ahead of anything related to his bloodline. Whether it's watching him build up his vast collection of art, or wandering through his expansive and opulent English estate, you can sense a stronger profile waiting to break out, but the opportunity is sacrificed in favour of the plot mechanics elsewhere.

The family drama is stronger than the unnecessary thriller elements that develop later in the film as the ransom negotiations reach a head, which largely feel tacked on to inject some tension. As always, Williams puts in a strong turn as the grief stricken but determined mother, and Wahlberg shows once again he has more to offer than the run-of-the-mill action films he spends so much time involved with. It's a handsomely shot film too, thanks to Ridley's longtime partnership with cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski. The grandeur of Getty's world and the beauty of the Italian locations used on Abigail and her sons, half of the story give the film the sort of polished finish we have long come to expect from the director.

Ridley refused to let the Spacey drama effect the films chances at the upcoming the Oscars, hurrying to re-cut so it could be released by the end of December. While it looks and feels like the type of film you would expect to be in the running, the performances of Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams will probably be its best bet. As detestable as Getty's actions may be in the film, Plummer ensures he remains a constantly watchable presence, while Williams solely carries the film’s emotional core wrapped within her old Hollywood-style accent. Despite all seeming lost some months ago, Ridley has managed to put together a strong drama worth taking note of.


A better drama than it is a thriller, All the Money in the World averts being the disaster it seemed destined to become.


out of 10

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