At the Movies with Alan Gekko: All the Money in the World “2017”

MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Crime Thriller/Stars: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton, Charlie Plummer, Charlie Shotwell, Andrew Buchan, Marco Leonardi, Giuseppe Bonifati, Nicolas Vaporidis/Runtime: 132 minutes

I think it can safely say that the 2017 slice of cinema that I am reviewing today known as All the Money in the World is one that is going to be looked back on not because it is a perfect slice of cinema (I promise you it most assuredly is not by any stretch of the imagination), but for the odd distinct asterisk that is attached to it as a result of how things are currently going down in the land of movie magic. In case you are not aware of what I am referring to, this slice of cinema from film helmer Ridley Scott originally had no less an actor than Kevin Spacey in the role of Getty and for a while the movie was already finished and just sitting pretty in its can waiting to be released. However, when Spacey was outed as a complete and utter scumbag and fell out of favor entirely with Hollywood (barring some kind of miracle intervention a ‘la what Tarantino did with John Travolta in 1994 with Pulp Fiction), it became quite obvious that neither this slice of cinema could be released when the studio wanted nor could they continue to push Spacey’s work for awards consideration. Yet being something of a brilliant filmmaking maverick, we see that Ridley Scott pushed a different strategy. Namely that he completely and utterly exorcized Spacey from the finished film and proceeded to hire Christopher Plummer to replace him and refilm everything with the character of Getty and get it edited into the rest of the film by the time the movie was supposed to come out. Astonishingly not only was he and the rest of the cast and crew able to accomplish this truly epic filmmaking feat, but even more remarkably the version of this finished slice of cinema is very very good. Indeed it really is remarkable what Scott and company were able to do here. Indeed make no mistake there a few flaws to be found in this slice of cinema, but overall All the Money in the World really truly is an incredibly well-made and performed thrill ride that is just a solid slice of cinema through and through.

The plot is as follows: Taking us all the way back to that iconic era of time known as the 1970s, the slice of cinema that is All the Money in the World opens its riveting yarn by showing us a fashionable young man of about 17 or 18 calling himself Paolo idiotically walking by himself along the back alleys of Rome late one night and, surprise surprise, finding himself cornered by a shady looking van and getting kidnapped. Yet it isn’t long before we learn that there is more to Paolo than we might have initially thought. Namely the fact that his name is actually Paul and that he is no more and no less one of the 14 grandchildren to one John Paul, or J.P. for short, Getty. As in the oil magnate who was worth the pretty astonishing sum of 1.2 billion dollars Getty. However when Paul’s frantic and fairly scared out of her mind for her child’s safety mom Gail desperately attempt to persuade her former father-in-law to help her pay the 17 million in ransom that the kidnappers are asking for and thereby help save Paul’s life, we see the notoriously frugal oil baron, who was more than capable of paying the amount the kidnappers were asking for without even breaking a sweat, not only refuse to grant her an audience, but also refuse to grant her request and help pay the ransom. Yet there is one thing that he does do unbeknownst to Gail. Namely, he covertly requests his de-facto head of security, and a former CIA agent who was immensely talented in crisis negotiation, by the name of Fletcher Chase to look into the matter and see if there is any legitimacy to Paul’s kidnapping. Thus the film then presents us with a trinity of storylines in the forms of Paul desperately trying to get away from his kidnappers even as he forms an unusual bond with one of them who is actually coming to care about the boy, the dynamic duo of Gail and Fletcher attempting to get the kidnappers to give them some time so they can find a way to either pay the money or just straight up rescue Paul, and Getty who continues to cruelly and indifferently hold out on everyone and just try going about his life and keeping his vast financial resources to himself even as the unrelenting hands of a clock slowly but surely are ticking away on the amount of life a grandson he claims he cares about more than anything has left……

Now behind the camera, it should be noted first off that film helmer Ridley Scott is in fine form directing this picture. Indeed make no mistake dear reader: this is not a movie that a studio head is doing all but holding a gun to his head and forcing him to make (looking at you Alien: Covenant as alright as that one was). Rather, this is a slice of cinema that Ridley is actually passionate about making a ‘la The Last Duel or even the original Blade Runner and as such we see his heart is truly into making this the best film he possibly can. A key part of this can be found in the way that Scott inserts a tempo to this slice of cinema that does a wonderful job of snatching and then maintaining our attention span all while slowly but surely making its way to a truly riveting third act with quite a few in the way of surprises even I never saw coming from a mile away the first time I watched this. With that being said though, there is a few slip-ups in Scott’s helmsmanship namely a teeny tiny bit of a lull in the tempo of this film near the start of this slice of cinema’s middle portion. In all fairness however, this lull in the tempo is swiftly fixed so it doesn’t really affect the overall quality of the film that much. It’s also worth noting that even though a lot of the pathos in this film’s narrative is conjured up either by dialogue that is incredibly penned or from skirmishes between the various characters, it is still worth noting that Scott is still able to pull no punches whatsoever especially when it comes to one moment that is really stomach curdling in the best possible manner. Along with that this slice of cinema is also very much a treat from a visual perspective as it shows that this slice of cinema’s creative team is pros at visual panache, but also are incredibly skilled at making great use of both lighting and framing in order to often say infinitely more than the dialogue ever could. Indeed from the lush vistas that make up the Italian countryside to glamorous and luxurious estates that nevertheless give off the vibe of being quite cold and distant, this film’s creative team manages to showcase not only how gorgeous this places are, but also how vast and immense riches can really put a fairly unremovable stain on them too.

This now brings us to the performances in this slice of cinema and honestly they are by and large actually pretty good, but there are a trinity of performances worth mentioning slightly more than the others. This starts with Michelle Williams in the role of Getty the 3rd’s mom Gail and she is fantastic. Indeed here is a strong willed woman who is desperately trying to be the best mom she can be despite the fact that one of her children has been tragically kidnapped whilst also being her own independent woman and taking charge of the hunt for her missing child herself. A feat she manages to achieve by outright refusing to be taken advantage of by any of the men that she finds herself having to deal with during this nightmare be they the kidnappers, Getty Sr., or even Fletcher Chase who becomes her quasi-sorta aide in this. Suffice it to say that Williams does a wonderful job of portraying this character with a wonderful mix of grace, dignitary, and grit thus making for a truly terrific performance from an actress whose big screen resume has been nothing short of impressive. Now I know a lot of people have kind of sort of definitely taken issues with the casting of Mark Wahlberg in this, but in all fairness I would like to say that he actually does not do a bad job. I mean I get that a lot of his recent movies seem to suggest that he’s more of an actor who excels at popcorn fare, but what a lot of people forget is that this is also the same guy who gave us truly fantastic turns in such dramatic fare as Boogie Nights, The Fighter, The Departed, and Fear (joking, joking). Suffice it to say that Wahlberg does a great job at giving us a guy who could kick someone’s butt on a physical level, but who would rather kick their butt on an intellectual level instead. Plus let’s be honest: if a movie has a Mark Wahlberg performance where he has a scene that sees him go toe to toe with none other than screen legend Christopher Plummer and actually intimidate Christopher Plummer that in my opinion says quite a bit about how effective his performance is. I guess this now brings us to the proverbial elephant in the room which would be the switching of Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in the role of the senior Getty and yet honestly it’s incredible to see what Plummer brings to the role because he is absolutely stunning. Indeed Plummer manages to take this character and make him an incredibly complex balancing act between a thrifty man of wealth and privilege and a capitalist whose monstrous and cold-hearted tactics would make Citizen Kane look like Time Magazine’s Cinematic Man of the Year. I mean I honestly do not know why in the world screen legend Plummer was never onboard this film from the start because we may never know what Spacey brought to the part, but Plummer is absolute aces in a way that only a screen legend of his caliber brought to every single role he ever played in his career (and yes I suppose that does include his role in The Sound of Music).

All in all if there is one thing I have come to learn during my time as a film reviewer, it would be the fact that the art of making a slice of cinema for audience consumption is no easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. With that in mind however, I cannot begin to imagine how hard it would have to be for a cast and crew who worked on a movie to have the movie all set and ready for release only for one of the main stars to find themselves being accused of some truly heinous and perverse sexual crimes and as a result the director chooses to recast the part instead of let the studio can the film indefinitely which requires reshooting a large majority of the film in a period of weeks and still getting the film released on its scheduled release date. Oh and actually turn out to be good. I always forget that part. With that in mind, I guess it should be noted that this slice of cinema is an actual miracle in that respect. Indeed not only is this a movie one that went through the aforementioned nightmarish scenario, but it is also one that turned out to be a really good film when all is said and done. Indeed the work done behind the camera by iconic film helmer Ridley Scott and the immensely talented crew he is working with is truly top-flight in every sense of the word, and the cast (especially Christopher Plummer who takes over the role of Getty from Kevin Spacey with the kind of skill and ease that only a veteran actor like Plummer could) all manage to give truly magnificent performances in this. Suffice it to say that whilst yes there are flaws to be found and yes this slice of cinema is known for things that are completely unrelated to the film itself, I can just as easily assure you that if you look past those things what you find is a very well-made and truly riveting slice of cinema that I promise you is most assuredly worth your time and your money (just don’t tell Mr. Getty I told you that). On a scale of 1-5 I give All the Money in the World “2017” a solid 3.5 out of 5.