All the Money in the World stars Christopher Plummer as Kevin Spacey as Mr. Burns as J. Paul Getty, the richest man in the world. Refusing to pay the ransom for his grandson’s (Charlie Plummer, no relation) kidnapping in Rome, Getty clashes with the boy’s mother (a forceful Michelle Williams) in Ridley Scott’s thriller based on a real case from 1973.
Being 80 has slowed neither Scott’s work rate nor his mouth. Last month he criticised Blade Runner 2049 for being “fucking way too long” even though he was the executive producer. He continued: “And most of that script’s mine,” before adding, somewhat superfluously, “and I will not take credit.” When asked about Star Wars he remarked: “I’m too dangerous for that. When you get a guy who’s done a low-budget movie and you suddenly give him $180m, it makes no sense whatsoever. It’s fucking stupid. You know what the reshoots cost? You can get me for my fee, which is heavy, but I’ll be under budget and on time.”
It seems like an odd comment considering The Last Jedi has made approximately $1.3bn, making it the 10th highest-grossing film of all time, while Scott’s Alien: Covenant proved such a commercial (and critical) disappointment for the franchise, second only to Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. That Scott appears intent on churning out these staggeringly unpopular Alien movies seemingly out of spite feels particularly disappointing when one recognises the quality of a picture like All the Money in the World. Ironically the film’s reshoots would end up costing $10m, though that had less to do with Scott’s abilities than Kevin Spacey’s proclivities.
Stepping into Spacey’s shoes, Plummer seems perfectly cast and brilliantly assured, especially considering he shot all his scenes in 9 days. At 88 years old it’s incredible he was able to learn his lines so quickly, let alone turn in such a note-perfect delivery. Opposite him is a career-best performance from Williams, who infamously earned 8 times less than Mark Wahlberg as Getty’s security man, whose level of characterisation falls well below that of his co-stars.
This feels worth mentioning when the film, as the title suggests, is all about money. Specifically how the rich will value wealth above human life. This makes for an interesting twist on the kidnapping movie, as the villain is not one of the kidnappers but the moneyed patriarch of the victimised family. In this sense it’s closer to the Danish thriller A Hijacking, where people become pawns in a deadly chess game between wealthy, dehumanised factions, capitalist or otherwise.
Ignoring all his bluster, this is Scott’s most captivating thriller in decades. He lends a distinctly Orson Wellsian flavour to David Scarpa’s inspired screenplay, placing invigorating psychological themes amongst sumptuous production design and classy Italian locations. Better performed and more interesting than many modern crime flicks, it’s a film that says “any fool can get rich” but it’s how they use that money that makes a person, an idea Scott might contemplate before forcing another 6 Alien movies upon a disinterested public.