Thursday 18 January 2018

Film Review: All the Money in the World

Ridley Scott's controversial new film All the Money in the World has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons – but is the film itself actually any good?

The year is 1973 and John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) isn't just the richest man in the world; he's the richest man to have ever lived. When Getty's grandson, also called John Paul Getty (Charlie Plummer, no relation to Christopher), is kidnapped by the Italian mafia, the older Getty's refusal to bow to the ransom demands of the captors garners the attention of the world media. At the centre of the media circus is the boy's mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) and her advisor Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), who journey to Italy to find JP Getty III for themselves.

If Oscars were awarded for number of tweets and thinkpieces generated, All the Money in the World would be streaking ahead in this year's awards. But they're not, and it isn't, with Scott's film instead fishing for scraps while films like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and The Shape of Water swim off into the distance. And I can see why; controversy aside, this film is generally well-made, mostly well-acted and sporadically well-paced, all without being that remarkable or memorable when all is said and done.

Williams, proving decisively that she's worth just as much and then some as Wahlberg, gives a memorable performance as a distraught mother hounded by the press and at a loss for what to do next. If anyone deserves praise and accolades, it's her. Wahlberg doesn't shine in the same way, wearing a suit and some glasses as if they alone transforms him into his character (they don't).

Christopher Plummer is the other stand-out performer, bristling with misplaced pride and scarcely believable frugality. Whether he's shuffling through gloomy hallways of the Getty estate or sitting stoney-faced in a custody dispute, Plummer commandingly carries the air of a man who cares more about his fortune and legacy than the welfare of his grandchildren.

The biggest issue with All the Money in the World, at least in my mind, is the length. Running for 132 minutes, the film does lag when it should be kicking up a gear, especially in the second act. The first half, which establishes the strained Getty family dynamic is erratic, but at least it moves along at a brisk pace. The second act gets bogged down in lots of back and forth, with a death fakeout and an escape attempt before we even reach the last act. There's defiantly lots of zigs and zags that could've be trimmed back or cut entirely, especially the scenes exclusively about Getty III and his captors.

Lastly, it's practically impossible to review All the Money in the World without at least mentioning the elephant in the room; the reshoots. Making the decision very late in the day to slice out Kevin Spacey's performance following damning allegations of sexual misconduct, Scott recast Spacey's role with Plummer and reshot a significant portion of the film in less than a fortnight.

One might think that this has hindered the film, but personally I didn't find that to be the case. Sure Wahlberg's weight varies from scene to scene (he looks decidedly thinner in the scenes he shares with Plummer), but aside from that and a couple of green screen moments, I found it hard to see the seams. I mean, what else would you expect from a workhorse such as Scott?

The Verdict: 6.5/10

A mediocre and lethargic film with bursts of energy that is elevated by terrific performances from Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World does at least capture the frenzy of media spotlight and the delusions of grandeur that can come with being sickeningly rich.

All the Money in the World is in cinemas across Australia now.

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