Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World is an 11th hour surprise in a wide open season. The MVP is Christoper Plummer who, like only a real actor through and through could pull off, rose to the challenge of becoming John Paul Getty almost overnight. Plummer’s Getty is so good he wiped clean any doubt, and never once made his work in the film a joke. Plummer plays a man who, at the time of the movie, was the richest man who ever lived. His wealth was and remains massive to the point where he could no longer function among other humans. Not only was he cut off from them because of his money, but he could not relate to them, with their inconvenient needs. All he could do was wall himself off in a room of valuable things. Paintings, statues — things that had value because of their rarity. Somehow, in the world of human beings, what something is worth is worth something. The reason it’s a good story for the end of this year is that it drives home the notion that money can’t buy it. It can’t buy happiness. It can’t buy friendship. It can’t buy a longer life.
Ridley Scott has proved himself a risk taker throughout his career, both when it worked and when it didn’t work. There are so few directors who have such a naturally adept hand behind the camera so that even no matter what movie it is, how good or how bad it is, there is always that stroke of smooth and exacting genius driving the ship. At some point during All the Money in the World, during the chase through the dark and ancient streets in Italy, it becomes clear that only one of the best directors in the industry was behind this film. It’s a gift and not everyone has it. It comes from 40 years doing it. It comes from 40 years of working with writers and actors and a film crew.
Ridley Scott knew that it was on him to save the movie from the fate of being dumped next year because of a scandal. Getting delayed would mean everyone who put their hearts and souls and time into making the film, relying on him to make it all come together, was about to get screwed. But Scott rolled up his sleeves, laughed at God and said, nope. We’re going ahead with this thing. The town truly gasped at once that anyone would have that kind of daring. The moment makes the man (or woman) and it certainly made him.
David Scarpa’s screenplay goes deep into Getty’s world, dissecting the man himself, but also spending much time on the rich life of Gail Harris, the young kidnapped Getty’s frantic mother who holds it together because she has no other choice. The story weaves in and out of Harris, Getty, and the go-between played by Mark Wahlberg until the full story is told. A man had more money than anyone every had. He became a target for the sick. He became a target for ransoms. He thought he was playing hard ball to send a message to anyone else who had similar ideas, but in so doing exposed himself as someone who didn’t really care, when it came down to it, about anyone, not even a boy he claimed to love. That is, by It’s a Wonderful Life’s standards, not a rich man.
The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski is beyond beautiful: warm dirty browns in the town of Italy where the young Getty is being held, cold and steely blues and blacks in Getty’s sterile, isolated world. The camera stays fairly close on Michelle Williams’ expressive face throughout — a mother caught up between trying to negotiate with hostages and trying to negotiate with Getty, a man with all the money in the world who would not give a penny to save his grandson.
All the Money in the World is many things. One thing it isn’t is predictable. It isn’t a film you’ve ever seen before, and it isn’t a situation anyone has ever endured. Somehow, it remains smooth and consistent and involving throughout. THAT is a test of a great director, and one Scott succeeded when the industry had him down for the count. All the Money in the World is a film worthy of consideration across the board.