There’s a large elephant in the cinema at screenings for ‘All The Money In The World’.
The behind-the-scenes controversy of replacing disgraced actor Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer at the eleventh hour will surely be what attracts cinemagoers. Director Ridley Scott’s thriller is more interesting than that controversy, but is hindered by poor choices, distracting from the otherwise enthralling story.
The film recounts the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), the grandson of oil tycoon and richest man in the world J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer).
Ridley Scott is not a subtle director, and it shows here. There’s a lot of symbolism that’s too on-the-nose, especially in an ending shot aiming for poignancy, instead eliciting laughter. The lack of subtlety does serve him well during violent scenes, presenting an ear removal in graphic and gripping detail, but otherwise it rings hollow.
Another distraction is Mark Wahlberg (playing Fletcher Chase); a charming actor but with limited range. He’d fit if there was more action for him to race through. Instead he struggles in dramatic scenes, even continuing to be Mark Wahlberg when struck in the head by a telephone.
Among the elder Getty’s refusal to pay and the younger Getty being held hostage, the film’s heart is Gail (Michelle Williams). Many won’t be familiar with her story, but it offers the most tension and emotional pull. Michelle Williams delivers an exceptional performance as Gail, disappearing behind her plummy voice. She gives the character depth and never plays for pity as the tabloids of the time portrayed her.
The question on everyone’s lips is whether Christopher Plummer rises to the challenge presented by the short-notice recasting. Remarkably, Plummer delivers a sterling performance as Getty, presenting him as a dotard too invested in his wealth, going so far to ask if the ransom is tax deductible. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the role, and that he could do this so late in the process shows his strength as an actor.
It’s a surprise ‘All The Money In The World’ is as good a film as it is. Much like Gail, everything seemed to be going against it, but it succeeds in the end. But even among the captivating performances, there is still a hollowness unfilled, stopping it from becoming a truly great film.