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Byron Shire
May 7, 2021

All the Money in the World

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All the Money in the World

This is the film for which venerable director Ridley Scott, after the shoot had been completed, was forced to call in the ancient but reliable Christopher Plummer to re-do the many scenes that had featured the disgraced sexual predator Kevin Spacey. The upshot is that you wonder why Plummer, as John Paul Getty, the world’s richest man in the early 70s, didn’t get the gig in the first place – he is superb as the rapacious, money-worshipping tycoon. Based on the true story of the kidnapping, in Rome, 1973, of Getty’s grandson Paul, there are a lot of introductory time-jumps – from Italy to the US to England to the Arabian desert – that provide probably more background information than is strictly necessary about Getty’s accumulation of his vast fortune. The hook comes when Scott gets to the nitty-gritty of the abduction and the bitter wrangling that followed between Paul’s divorced mother Abigail (Michelle Williams) and her callous father-in-law, who refused point blank to pay the ransom demanded by the boy’s captors. The portrait of the old plutocrat is damning. It beggars belief that any man might view others with utter contempt while holding such a high, such a superior opinion of himself (Getty apparently believed that he was the reincarnation of the Emperor Hadrian). How dispiriting to think that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue only confirms the ugly notion that repulsive hubris goes hand in glove with immeasurable wealth and power. Scott, who has always loved the heroic figure, paints Abigail in the kindest light (though broke, she is not short of Chanel suits) and, in Cinquanta (Romain Duris), he manages to find a less ignoble character among the cut-throat Calabrian villains and thus maintain the ‘honour among thieves’ sophistry. Mark Wahlberg turns up as Fletcher Chase, Getty’s largely ineffective minder and fixer who is won over to Abigail’s side. The notorious ear-severing is done with horrible realism, the climax is taut and Getty’s fate unlamented. Great stuff.

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