Courtesy of Sony
At 80 years old, does Ridley Scott ever slow down? The answer is no. I say this because, unless you’ve been living under a rock, I bet you heard about the sexual assault allegations which plagued Kevin Spacey just last month. Scott, understanding that he couldn’t have Spacey’s disgraced/toxic name on his Oscar hopeful, decided to completely recast and reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes (which were 100% completed and in the can) in just nine days with Christopher Plummer taking the now vacated role of John Paul Getty, the oil billionaire tycoon that refused to pay for his grandson’s ransom. The result is insanely remarkable. It’s one thing to recast a film and do reshoots, it’s a whole other to do it within weeks of an impending release date and to avoid pushing it out of the awards race (and force them to contend with an FX limited series set to debut next month that is literally focusing on the same thing). And so, the impossible was achieved and Scott deserves credit, but so does Plummer for, somehow, adding an extra layer of depth and melanonchy Scott probably didn’t know he needed.
Most people know the story, and the main issue with “World” is that we can’t really tell just how much is being dramatized. The end credits remind us, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the amount of narrative that was beefed up for its audience to be a substantial chunk. The film itself spans over many decades, international territories, and focuses on one crucial kidnapping. Alone on a walk in the burbs of Italy, young John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer - no relation to Christopher) is snatched up by a ringleader of thugs and hauled off for a long waiting game.
Back in the states, the captors make a phone call to Gail (Michelle Williams - sporting a thick Atlantic accent) saying that her son has been kidnapped and request $17 million dollars for his safe return. Thinking she’d never have to deal with her ex-father in law, the filthy rich John Paul Getty (Plummer), again she dutifully askes that he pay it. But him being the stingy and frugal individual he is denies her and the captors request. Strange as it maybe, even with all the money in the world, he constantly feels a financial strap on his cash. When asked what it would take to pay his grandson’s ransom, Plummer response with a sly and conniving delivery of “More.” An ironic parable that Scott amps up well. To help, he enlists in his longtime collaborator, and ex CIA operative, Chase (Mark Wahlberg doing his acting but not really acting routine that always works) to help track down his grandson’s whereabouts for as inexpensive as it gets.
While all this goes on, young Paul is sitting inside a cell, wasting away, because a decision can’t be made on how to pay for his ransom. He finds solace in his captor, Cinquanta (Romain Duris), who eventually turns into a father figure that binds an emotional attachment to the kid, rather than a vicious criminal in it for the cash grab. The screenplay by David Scarpa (from the book by John Pearson) holds up the kidnapping plot well, it glues the movie together exceptionally. Scott is able to maneuver quickly. And with Plummer taking over the reigns, you’d never know that Spacey’s name was ever on it. The last minute switch might’ve made his movie that much better.
“All The Money In The World” is a testament to moral ethics and judgement. How far is one man willing to go for the safety of his family? Everyone feels they’re justified in their handling of situations. As the world watched in shock as Getty refused to pay the ransom, he had a reason for denying it for so long. And, to most, his actions are unjustifiable (what’s $17 million when you have it all?) and Plummer evokes those layers, as well as, his slimy justification for not doing so. It’s very reminiscent of “Citizen Kane” and how attached Getty is to his objects. Something Scott knew and relates to often in the final product. “World” doesn’t move the barometer of kidnapping thrillers, but it’s a serviceable example with a quartet of solid performances. Williams excels as the perfect antagonist to Plummer’s getty in a role that shouldn’t be overlooked this award season. A-