I have not hesitated to be harsh to Ridley Scott in the past — check out my post on Alien: Covenant. Indeed, I'd pretty much written him off. So it is with enormous pleasure that I report that All the Money in the World is the best film he's made in decades.
Maybe his best ever.
It tells the true story of what happens when the teenage grandson of the richest man in the world is kidnapped. And the richest man in the world, John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) refuses to pay the ransom...
Now, of course there are cogent arguments in favour of not paying a ransom — if you do so, you just encourage further kidnappings. But that isn't why Getty refuses.
He just doesn't want to spend the money.
This is an amazingly tense and compelling story. The kidnapped kid, John Paul Getty III (played by Charlie Plummer, no relation) is an appealing and resourceful character and we are utterly caught up in his plight.
And also the plight of the kid's mother, wonderfully played by Michelle Williams in what is easily her finest role. We feel her agony as she is swept up in the monstrous machinations of the kidnapping.
We even begin to sympathise with one of Paul's kidnappers, Quintana, played by Romain Duris.
The person we feel no sympathy for is the cold, hard, rich old man, as so magnificently depicted by Christopher Plummer.
In the company of these (literally) great actors I was preparing to wince when Mark Wahlberg enters the story as the ex-CIA hostage negotiator hired by Getty. But Wahlberg does a fine job.
This movie had a troubled history. It was filmed once with Kevin Spacey in the role of the old man, then had to be extensively re-shot, recast with Christopher Plummer, when Spacey was caught up in accusations of sexual harassment and abuse.
The re-shoots reportedly cost $10 million, with the actors who'd already done their scenes once returning for rock bottom fees — except for Wahlberg, who demanded $1.5million.
Then, sensing a PR disaster (guess what Mark, you just appeared in a movie which condemns a heartless rich man who only cares about money...) Wahlberg hastily donated that fee to a legal fund for victims of sexual harassment... and made the donation in the name of Michelle Williams.
Enough gossip... Written by David Scarpa from a book by John Pearson, this is a terrific film, and you should definitely see it.
I was familiar with the case from press reports at the time, so I knew a lot of what was coming. If you're not familiar with what happened, you're really in for a roller coaster ride.
Great movie. Enjoy.
(Image credits: Some really lovely posters at Imp Awards, although I've refrained from using one which foolishly reveals a major plot development.)