American films

Film review: All the Money in the World – Christopher Plummer shines as misanthropic billionaire in Ridley Scott’s kidnap thriller

Christopher Plummer replaced the disgraced Kevin Spacey as John Paul Getty in this riveting tale based on the kidnap of John Getty III, whose ear was cut off by his captors when his billionaire grandfather refused to pay the ransom

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 January, 2018, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 4:36pm

4/5 stars

All the Money in the World achieved notoriety when director Ridley Scott reshot scenes featuring Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer just before the film’s release, after Spacey was accused of sexual abuse. Plummer puts in a terrific performance as the mean and mendacious billionaire J. Paul Getty, and it’s now difficult to imagine anyone else essaying the role with such aplomb.

The film is a fictionalised retelling of the kidnapping of Getty’s grandson John Paul Getty III by Italian gangsters, and succeeds as a solid piece of filmmaking in Scott’s usual craftsmanlike style: effective, periodically exciting, but extremely prosaic.

The story, which is based on an account written by John Pearson, sticks vaguely to the facts of the kidnapping. Young John Getty III (Charlie Plummer) is snatched from the streets of Rome by Italian criminals, who quickly issue a US$17 million ransom demand to his mother, Gail (Michelle Williams).

The problem is that Gail doesn’t have any money – she’d given up any claim to the Getty fortune in return for child custody when she divorced J. Paul Getty’s son, who suffered from addiction issues. Gail asks John Paul Getty to pay the ransom, but he refuses on the grounds that payment will encourage kidnappers to snatch his other grandchildren.

Film review: Kidnap – Halle Berry chases redneck kidnappers in disappointing action thriller

Aided by Getty’s sympathetic security chief Chase (Mark Wahlberg), Gail tries to work out a deal involving J. Paul Getty, the kidnappers, and the Italian police.

To turn the story into an effective thriller, Scott has taken many liberties with the facts. For instance, Chase, who acts heroically in the film, was an ineffective agent in real life; J. Paul Getty did not die just after the kidnapping incident; and the dramatic pursuit that serves as the film’s climax did not occur. All the Money in the World is entertaining, but viewers should be aware that it’s no history lesson.

Plummer is suitably regal as the misanthropic billionaire, seemingly channelling Orson Welles in Citizen Kane.

All the Money in the World opens on January 25

Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook