Rome, 1973. J. Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped by Italian criminals and held for ransom for $17 million. When his mother (Michelle Williams) is unable to raise the money from her billionaire industrialist father-in-law J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), he instead sends a former CIA operative (Mark Wahlberg) to assist in bringing him home.
It's hard to think of or even critique 'All The Money In The World' without first addressing the alleged sexual predator in the room. Undoubtedly, the film has more focus on it than any marketing campaign could have mustered in the wake of Ridley Scott's stunning decision to completely excise Kevin Spacey's performance from the film and replace it with the venerable Christopher Plummer - who, it should be pointed out, was Scott's first choice for the role. This in itself is interesting because when you watch Plummer's performance, it's clear that Scott's instincts were correct.
From the very first appearance of Plummer's Getty, there isn't a single hint that the venerable actor - who turned 88 this month - was drafted in at the last moment. His performance feels lived in, considered and contemplated, but loose enough that it gels with the general tone that Scott is aiming for. In comparison to Wahlberg or even Williams, Plummer is the standout and owns every scene with an easy confidence that compliments the character of Getty. Wahlberg, on the other hand, has a certain stilted quality to it that doesn't fit so easily as Plummer. Michelle Williams, meanwhile, plays the mother with a certain soap opera tone that might be somewhat difficult to grasp initially, but when you get just how outrageous the whole story is, it makes for a good choice. Not surprisingly, Charlie Plummer's performance as J. Paul Getty is somewhat muted and reserved - primarily because he's a child in an impossible situation that completely robs him of any kind of agency. That said, he does it well and sells the anguish convincingly.
As mentioned, Ridley Scott and editor Claire Simpson deftly and surgically sliced out any trace or acknowledgement of Spacey. The direction and editing feels so assured that you'd almost be forgiven for thinking it may have actually helped Scott by jolting him into action. Throughout the film, there's a real sense of pacing to it that just drives the whole thing forward, and there's a certain pulpy, almost tabloid feel to it that makes all the more entertaining. That said, the film does eventually begin to run out of steam and a bland finale set in a small Italian town means that the film loses its momentum and ends up being anti-climactic. David Scarpa's dialogue, particularly for the scenes involving the elder Getty, does have a certain clunky quality - but, in a way, it seems to work. One chilling scene lays out his entire motivation, when he talks about how things have a purity that people don't that seems to somewhat betray an early sense of logic to why he refused to pay out the ransom.
As you'd expected from a Ridley Scott film, the palatial surroundings of Getty's house completely dominate the screen in comparison to the more homely apartment where Michelle Williams frantically takes calls from her kidnappers. The cinematography from Dariusz Wolski smartly avoids trying to make the film seem like it was made in the '70s the way other cinematographers might, instead opting for a luxuriant quality throughout. Even the Italian countryside where the younger Getty is being held captive has splashes of beauty and romance to it, which makes the violence carried out there all the more disturbing.
While it doesn't stick the landing as well as it should and the screenplay lets itself down somewhat, 'All The Money In The World' plays like a high production value soap opera that makes it more compelling and entertaining than you'd expect.