Ridley Scott’s gripping true-story drama escapes from the shadow of Kevin Spacey’s omission, and does so with great aplomb
All the Money in the World will arguably be remembered just as much for the Spacey controversy as it will be for its brilliance.
The film had just finished shooting, with Kevin Spacey donning liver-spotted prosthetics to become John Paul Getty. However, after numerous sexual assault allegations were made against the Hollywood titan, Ridley Scott decided to remove all of traces of the disgraced Spacey from the film. Christopher Plummer was brought in, and extensive re-shoots took place, costing an estimated £7.5 million.
Both director and studio were insistent the film met its original release date, and understandably there was suspicion the re-shoots would appear hurried. Thankfully, and presumably to the immense relief and satisfaction of Scott, Plummer is without a doubt the tour-de-force of the movie.
It is 1973, and a young American teenager walks the streets of Rome at night, to be intercepted by a group of men and thrown into a van, blindfolded. The mobster kidnappers demand a 17 million dollar ransom, and it just happens that young John Paul’s grandfather is the billionaire oil tycoon John Paul Getty — the “richest man in the history of the world”. The deal is simple — Getty pays up, and the boy lives, yet the kidnappers and the boy’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) underestimate the greed, malice and pride which have consumed the old man.
What follows is a battle of wills between the hostage’s mother, the Italian mob, Mark Wahlberg’s secret agent Fletcher Chase, and Getty. The story itself is compelling enough, and it is surprising a screen adaptation has not been envisaged earlier (although later this year a Danny Boyle-directed TV series will air on FX which follows the same story). Yet Scott has not coasted on the tale’s pulsating narrative arch, and is back to true form after the woeful Alien: Covenant (2017).
The tension and authenticity of the film’s events and setting is outstanding, rivalling that of the Oscar-winning Argo (2012). There is a strong resemblance between All the Money in the World and Affleck’s equally slow-burning thriller, yet the time-shifts in the former give Scott’s most recent blockbuster the edge in terms of depth and intrigue.
Plummer will doubtlessly draw the majority of attention, which may or may not be amplified somewhat by his predecessor’s transgressions, but Michelle Williams by no means plays second fiddle. An actress who is criminally underused in Hollywood cinema, her portrayal of a mother caught between grief, desperation and rage could be described by an endless list of superlatives.
Wahlberg falls somewhat short as a two-dimensional special-ops agent hired by Getty to facilitate the recovery of his grandson, but it is a nice change to see him returning to quality cinema once more after starring in last year’s blockbuster monstrosities Transformers: The Last Knight and Daddy’s Home 2.
The plot at times is forced to cave slightly in order to pave way for narrative progression (a monumental decision by Getty towards the film’s final act appears somewhat out of the blue in order to trigger the resolution), but this is a minor pitfall in what is otherwise an expertly crafted film. Scott’s forte now clearly lies in the real world – his days of fantasy and science fiction are behind him – yes we’re looking at you Exodus and Covenant.
Likely to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, despite the controversy, All the Money in the World is everything a crime-thriller should be. Scott gambled in order to save the project, and it paid off spectacularly.