What was otherwise bound to be one of several late year Oscar contenders that come and go without leaving much of a mark, All the Money in the World found itself thrust into the forefront of one of the biggest widespread scandals in Hollywood history when Kevin Spacey came up as one of many names who were accused of sexual misconduct and harassment. The long term effect of it will still need to be seen as of me writing this, but one of the most unprecedented responses to this has been Ridley Scott removing Kevin Spacey from his latest film, and reshooting his scenes with Christopher Plummer (Scott’s original choice) just a month before the film was scheduled to release. Yes, just one month before release. One month. Just felt like I needed to repeat that because…wow.
Anyway, now that all that baggage is out of the way…
All the Money in the World follows the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher btw), the teenage grandson of oil tycoon John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), and the struggle of his mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), in getting Getty’s cooperation for dealing with the kidnappers.
When you really boil it down, the film is a fairly standard historical based dramatic thriller, but it’s the execution of it that really matters. And yeah, as far as one of these kind of movies go, it’s pretty great, and in case you’re wondering, the reshoots (aside from one fairly obvious composite shot) are totally seamless. Scott is 80 years old now, and while he may be one of the big hit-and-miss directors out there, his craftsmanship has never faltered, and the same applies to this. He is with his regular cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski, who does some great work here. Editor, Claire Simpson, keeps the film moving and escalating at a methodical but steady pace. Composer, Daniel Pemberton, does wonderful work. It’s an effectively made thriller on all fronts, and it’s all built on top of the script by David Scarpa, which is rock solid and well structured.
Of course, everybody is gonna want to know how Christopher Plummer is, and well, he’s Christopher Plummer, so he’s really good, no surprise there. Acting practically like a secondary villain, his Getty is a man who only sees value and beauty in things, objects, mere stuff that he can collect while only seeing his family as additions to his self-professed dynasty. He’s great, as is the entire cast including Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris, and Timothy Hutton. Mark Wahlberg’s casting is questionable at times, but he’s more than serviceable.
However, this is Michelle Williams’ movie, and she is spectacular. She represents that one beating heart that is continuously disappointed and suffocated by the apathy that festers in extreme wealth as displayed by Getty. She is in many ways the only character that pushes through the film fighting for what is right, as even Mark Wahlberg’s Fletcher, Getty’s advisor/former CIA operative, initially helps Gail only within the interests of Getty. The world itself is relentless as she is quickly surrounded by paparazzi the moment she steps outside, and things only get more and more oppressive as things from the kidnappers’ side seem to go from bad to worse. Seeing Gail deal with the never ending frustration and unforgiving nature of the situation gives Williams a lot to work with, and she handles it with finesse.
All the Money in the World isn’t reinventing the wheel when it comes to this kind of stuff, but Scott and the cast and crew know how to make a handsome wheel that can really move, and I’d hate to see something this good be overshadowed by its insane behind-the-scenes story. Ridley Scott plays on the same crowd-pleaser formula of something like The Martian, but with an added layer of cruelty and delightful wickedness that made Alien: Covenant so great. The film is a riveting roller-coaster, and it plays with the audience so well; even more so if you know nothing about the real events. Something the trailers never highlighted is that the film has a devilish sense of humor, and it was a very welcome treat. And at the center of all the chaos is a stellar Michelle Williams performance, and given the circumstances surrounding this movie and the film industry in general at this moment, it’s fitting to see a story right now that’s essentially about a woman trying to persevere despite all the powerful men in her life trying to control her or push her aside.