All The Money In The World - This Gripping Partly Re-Shot Thriller Rocks
Dir: Ridley Scott
Starring Michelle Williams, Kevin Spacey, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer (no relation), Andrew Buchan, Timothy Hutton
What’ll be interesting to see now is if Ridley Scott’s latest thriller becomes forever known as the movie that Kevin Spacey was excised from, or the movie that Christopher Plummer was remarkably good in. And under such short notice.
Plummer’s performance as J. Paul Getty, the richest man on earth refusing to negotiate the finances of his kidnapped grandson’s life is a brilliant portrait of a man consumed by his own wealth and lack of perspective both. Inevitably it will never escape the shadow of its inception – all of Plummer’s scenes (re)shot in just nine days in Scott’s attempt to rescue his film from the shadow of the sexual abuse allegations laid against the already cast and shot Spacey. It’s a triumphant story of a major Hollywood movie and a major Hollywood filmmaker turning failure into potential triumph. It’s also just a really fine performance from Plummer.
And it’s one that fits into a film that is also very solid, in the way that Scott can be when he’s running a tight ship. As strong and effective as this is as a thriller, there is no sign of a personal connection for the filmmaker here, something he rarely displays in his work His other film this year – Alien Covenant – with its latter life meditation on the very nature of creation and meaning being one of the rare examples of this. What the Getty story shows – and what the more than well documented events around it confirm – is just how much of a consummate, though unemotional filmmaker Scott is. His eye is one of the best in the business, but it is forever a dispassionate one.
Which is fitting for his portrait of Getty, who if anything is the very definition of a dispassionate man. (Maybe Scott is finding more of a personal connection here than we surmise.)
Michelle Williams, as the mother of the 17 year old boy being held first for $17 million, a figure that drops as his grandfather publicly disavows the kidnaping, offers up a similar but in its own ways equally unemotional portrayal – something not helped by her clipped accent which seems to vacillate from scene to scene, reshoots or not.
Both she and Plummer, for all their quiet restraint, both remain impressive. The weak link is Wahlberg, who seems to modulate his performances these days by either wearing glasses or not wearing glasses. He is clearly the weakest link here and makes the film feel more generic whenever he is on screen.
What Scott has done here in regard to the events around his film is remarkable and unique. And you can almost sense him rising to this technical and time tabled challenge even more than he did to the original telling of the story. Having made a film about people where the mind rules the heart, where the thought and planning is often more exciting and important than the execution, and where his protagonists can function (or in terms of his performers even be replaced) in such a calculating dispassionate manner, perhaps he has made one of his more personal and reflective movies after all.
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