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Admit it, you hadn’t even heard of All the Money in the World until that whole mess with Kevin Spacey started. I know I hadn’t. I didn’t even see a trailer – just heard out of the blue that Kevin Spacey has been replaced after filming had finished in Ridley Scott’s new film. It actually makes it kind of fun. It’s nice to compare the two performances from the trailers. But, as fun as that is for us, it must have been rough for the film makers. Does it show in the finished product? That’s the biggest concern.
Based (although after doing some research, I’d say very loosely) on the true events of J. Paul Getty. When his grandson, John Paul Getty III, is kidnapped in Italy he is held for the random of seventeen million dollars. Getty is the richest man in the world and has enough money to pay the ransom and not notice a difference. So, what will he pay for the release of his grandson? Nothing. It falls to the boy’s mother to help save her son, with or without the billionaire’s help.
For true events, this is a pretty good one to pick. And, although Scott plays very fast and loose with events to help dramatise the film more, he does manage to reach some of the potential of the story. There is no hiding that the performances are what carry this film. Michelle Williams as the mother was excellent. I don’t think that she has given a bad performance to date, and that trend is carried on here. You feel for her as you should a mother who wants to save her child. Mark Wahlberg reminds us of how great he can be in films. This is especially refreshing after seeing him last year playing, ugh, Cade Yeager in Transformers: The Last Knight. I must also mention Romain Duris as one of the kidnappers. He is so charming and yet menacing in his performance that he succeeds at doing exactly what he is meant to be doing. You fear him when you need to, and you feel for him when you need to.
Let’s get to the big news now. Kevin Spacey was cast in the role of Getty. He had on a lot of make-up and was putting on a voice to sound more like the actual Getty. It looked silly and I’m not sure if it’d work or not. But that doesn’t matter now. After certain issues were brought to light about Spacey, Scott cut him from the film. Filming was finished, so they hired another actor and reshot all of Getty’s scenes with the new actor – all in under two weeks! Who did they hire? Christopher Plummer. A man who gives us one of the best performances I have ever seen him give. It’s amazing. Plummer steals the show – and because he looks like Getty and is already the right age, there is no distracting make-up. And you honestly wouldn’t tell that these scenes were not filmed at the same time as the others. Wahlberg is noticeably bulkier in some scenes and there is one bad green-screen shot. That’s it, everything else is perfect about the reshoots.
This is a Ridley Scott film, and true to form it looks very nice. It’s strange, because with the style taken for this film, you half believe that it was a Spielberg film – in the vein of Bridge of Spies and Munich. This was one of those few times that Scott held back on style and allows his actors and the dialogue to do most of the work, and it is better for it. Something I’ve been noticing about Scott’s directing is that he feels very workman like with his films. He gets them done with an artistic eye and the best actors, crew and equipment that money can buy. All the while, he gets them out in a hurry – which would answer how he can make one or two every year. It’s certainly admirable and gives us some great pieces of work. Sadly, it usually becomes his film’s Achilles heel.
I’ve had the feeling with most of Scott’s recent works – barring The Martian – that they were all one more script draft away from greatness. It’s the same here. Getty’s scenes are the best in the film, and I get the feeling that’s because they had more time dedicated to them – being reshot and all. The others are not bad, but there are a number of scenes that feel unnecessary. The ending in particular suffered for this. I was looking at my watch for the final ten minutes of the film. It was about fifteen minutes too long. That mostly comes down to what feels like padding out the runtime. It also ends a little too cut and dry for me. I feel that ten minutes of the end could have been removed and some ambiguity kept in. This would have made the ending all the more effective for me. Ridley Scott is one of my favourite directors, and I will always see his next films. But this is becoming a very noticeable trend to me.
All the Money in the World is a good film. But it could have been a great one. I love the performances, the smart dialogue and Scott’s over all direction. But it is a little too long and missing an impactful ending. It’s a hard one to recommend going to the cinema for, due to it’s length and some pretty intense moments. But I do recommend seeing it on DVD or TV when it’s released. It’s an interesting and tense thriller that follows some interesting characters well played by great actors. It’s by no means the best, but you can still find some enjoyment here.
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