All the Money in the World (2017)

  • Time: 132 min
  • Genre: Biography | Crime | Drama
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer


Rome, 1973. Masked men kidnap a teenage boy named John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer). His grandfather, Jean Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), is the richest man in the world, a billionaire oil magnate, but he’s notoriously miserly. His favorite grandson’s abduction is not reason enough for him to part with any of his fortune. All the Money in the World (2017) follows Gail, (Michelle Williams), Paul’s devoted, strong-willed mother, who unlike Getty, has consistently chosen her children over his fortune. Her son’s life in the balance with time running out, she attempts to sway Getty even as her son’s mob captors become increasingly more determined, volatile and brutal. When Getty sends his enigmatic security man Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg) to look after his interests, he and Gail become unlikely allies in this race against time that ultimately reveals the true and lasting value of love over money.


  • When looking at Ridley Scott’s filmography as a whole, his latest work All the Money in the World seems a minor work. A solid drama that works in fits and starts, would have benefited from a more focused first half, and is bolstered mainly by the performances of Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer. Yet, more than any of his works, All the Money in the World is irrevocable proof that Scott is one of the ballsiest directors that ever lived.

    Who else but Scott would have the gumption to replace Kevin Spacey, originally cast as J. Paul Getty but subsequently done in by numerous sexual assault and harassment allegations, with Plummer with only about six weeks to go before the film’s release? Brilliant as Scott is, the move was a risky one for the studio to get behind – remember this is the same Scott that’s spent decades tweaking and re-tweaking Blade Runner. What Scott has achieved is undoubtedly impressive; one only wishes the film were more so.

    Based on a true story, the film begins in 1973 as 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher) is snatched from the streets of Rome by an organised crime ring, who demand a ransom of $17 million from his mother Gail (Williams). When she protests that she doesn’t have that kind of money, the kidnapper directs her to go to her former father-in-law J. Paul Getty (Plummer). After all, “he has all the money in the world.” Indeed, at the time, the oil tycoon was not only the richest man in the world, he was the richest man in the history of the world, the sort who can quip, “If you can count your money, then you’re not a billionaire” during an interview with Playboy.

    Truth is often stranger than fiction and, indeed, John Paul would end up languishing in a remote location in Calabria, Italy for nearly five months because his notoriously frugal grandfather refused to pay the ransom. After all, the grandfather of fourteen tells reporters, if he paid the ransom for one kidnapped grandchild, then he’d end up with fourteen kidnapped grandchildren. For Getty, his fortune was both his status and his armour – for him to kowtow to such demands would be a show of vulnerability, a quality which he seemed to abhor. “Everything has a price and the great struggle in life is coming to grips with what that price is,” Getty says early in the film. It’s not that Getty doesn’t care enough about his grandson to pony up the money, he just wants to do it in the most cost-effective way. When the kidnappers eventually reduce the ransom to $3 million, Getty agrees to pay $2.2 million because it’s the maximum that will be tax deductible and lends his son the remaining amount at 4% interest.

    In many respects, this portrait of Getty and the clash of the wills that ensue between him and Gail is the heart and soul of All the Money in the World. Gail may bear the name Getty, but she possesses none of its power, having refused any alimony or settlement during her divorce from Getty’s son and requesting only custody of her children and child support. Yet she’s the one criticised by the media, who can’t believe that not only does she not have the money to get her son back but that she doesn’t even have the decency to cry at the situation so they can get a good picture for their papers. Williams is absolutely stunning as the fiercely determined Gail, using her wits to outmanoeuvre Getty and the press but also having to do whatever it takes to ensure that her son is returned. She also shares a fine dynamic with Mark Wahlberg, who portrays the former CIA operative Getty employs to recover John Paul, but Wahlberg and his thinly drawn character are easily the weak links in the film.

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  • “You Can’t take it with you”.
    Rating: 7/10.

    The big talking point of this Ridley Scott film is not of course the film itself but the fact that the disgraced Kevin Spacey (“Baby Driver”) was ‘airbrushed’ out of the movie, replaced by the legend that is Christopher Plummer. With that background, and the fact that the re-shoot only took 9 days (NINE DAYS!!!!), I must admit to having been a tad scornful when Plummer was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. “Oh” I thought “…it’s Judi Dench’s minimalistic performance in ‘Shakespeare In Love’ all over again”.

    But actually on watching the film I take it all back. Plummer’s role is not, like Dench’s, a mere eight minutes of screen time, but extensive and pivotal. Not only was his nomination richly deserved (his performance is cold, eerie and magnificent!) but Ridley Scott deserved an award for getting so much great footage in the can in such a short space of time.

    The film tells the true story of the feckless John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation), grandson to the richest man in the world John Paul Getty I. While in the Piazza Farnese in Rome, JPGIII is kidnapped and a $17 million reward is sought for his release. Whilst claiming to love his offspring, the tycoon is basically a ‘tight git’ and the film concerns the battle of  the young heir’s mother Gail (Michelle Williams, “Manchester By The Sea”; “The Greatest Showman”) to persuade JPG1 and his right-hand negotiator Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg, “Patriot’s Day”, “Deep Water Horizon”) to shake the money tree* and get JPGIII released.

    *To be fair, JPGIII hasn’t exactly helped his case as it emerges he had previously joked about getting himself kidnapped to get his grandfather’s ransom money!

    As I didn’t remember the historical outcome of this, I was in a suitable amount of suspense as to where it would go. It is clear though, from the wiki version of the story, that the ending was significantly ‘sexed-up’ for the movie.

    Ridley Scott sensibly balances the views of the Getty’s with the views of the kidnappers, with a semi-sympathetic Italian (Romain Duris) being the focus of those scenes in rural Calabria.

    But it’s the scenes with Plummer that really engage. The man as portrayed is an enigma, eccentrically washing his own clothes to save a few pennies and always (ALWAYS) trying to get 20% more on even the most personal of decisions. It makes me really intrigued to see Spacey’s portrayal now… I wonder if the alternate cut might make it onto the Blu-ray?  I actually think though that Plummer was the better choice for this:  I could see Spacey bringing far too much of Frank Underwood to the role.

    Elsewhere in the cast, I think Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg are both solid without ever being spectacular and it’s nice to see the talented Andrew Buchan (“The Mercy”; “Broadchurch”) in a more memorable big screen outing as JPG2:  his drug-addled son (and JPG3’s father).

    Overall, it’s an interesting watch and had me sufficiently engaged to want to watch it again. But without Plummer’s role it wouldn’t really amount to nearly as much.

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