Review: 'All the Money in the World' is a powerful tale of wealth and crassness

Marcus Goh
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

“All the Money in the World” may have been plagued with multiple production issues, but that hasn’t stopped it from being an excellent film. Given the reshoot schedules and urgent recasting of Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty (he replaced Kevin Spacey), you’d have thought that it would show in the final product. Surprisingly, the edits were seamless, hiding the logistical nightmare of having reshoots just a month before the release date.

The film is a crime thriller that’s based on the book “Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty”. It is a dramatisation of the real-life kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson in 1973. At that time, Getty was the richest man in the world — and also infamously frugal.

Christopher Plummer delivers a fantastic performance as J. Paul Getty as he balances cheapskate crassness with arrogant opulence. There’s so much subtlety and nuance in the way he portrays Getty, despite the ostensible shallowness of the character. Of course, the characterisation of Getty in the script has a large part to play in creating this memorable character, who is at once multi-faceted but simplistic in his motivations.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

His grandson’s mother, Gail Harris, is played by Michelle Williams — who conveys the sheer desperation and frustration of having to deal with his miser of a grandfather. Anyone who has had to deal with penny-pinching, old-fashioned businessmen can identify with her problems, especially since Getty sees the kidnapping and ransom as just another business deal to be negotiated. You can’t help but feel sorry for her situation, especially since her son is on the line.

“All the Money in the World” also hits all the appropriate dramatic beats even if it’s over two hours long. It manages to avoid the usual pitfalls of being based on a real life story, combining deep characterisation, snappy editing, and a strong plot that engages throughout its running length.

The music is also fittingly epic for a story of this scale, having been composed by Daniel Pemberton. It might sound a little over the top at the beginning, but you soon realise how this actually ties in to the themes of the film. It’s also one of the reasons why the movie’s pace is as chipper as it is, because the rousing score helps to heighten the dramatic moments — while also reminding you of the pointless opulence of Getty.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

The movie does get a little gritty at times, since it is about a kidnapping and violent criminals are involved. Visceral, gory closeups show you every excruciating detail, impressing upon you the stakes that are involved in the film. It’s debatable whether such bloody scenes were needed, given that there were other ways to express certain plot points.

“All the Money in the World” tells a powerful tale of a man so obsessed with money that he would bargain when it came to his grandson’s ransom, and leaves you wondering whether or not J. Paul Getty was ultimately justified in his actions.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this more than once? No.

Score: 4.4/5

Running time: 133 minutes

Secret ending? No.

“All the Money in the World” is a crime thriller that’s based on the 1995 book “Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty”.

The film is directed by Ridley Scott and written by David Scarpa. It stars Michelle Williams (Gail Harris), Christopher Plummer (J. Paul Getty), Mark Wahlberg (Fletcher Chase), Charlie Plummer (John Paul Getty III), and Romain Duris (Cinquata). It is rated NC-16.

“All the Money in the World” opens in cinemas:
– 25 January, 2018 (Singapore)
– 28 December, 2017 (Malaysia)
– 17 January, 2018 (Philippines)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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