Ridley Scott defied the odds with “All the Money in the World”

With an embargo now lifted, let me express some real deference towards what Sir Ridley Scott was able to do with All the Money in the World at the 11th hour. His decision to recast a crucial role, essentially firing Kevin Spacey months after production had ended and replacing him with Christopher Plummer, mere weeks before release, seemed misguided at best and a disaster at worst. Yet, here we are, three Golden Globe nominations later. Having seen the film last week, I can vouch for it being pretty good. When you think about what Plummer and Scott pulled off at the last minute though, that helps to set it apart.

The movie is a look at the infamous kidnapping of 16 year old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and the desperate attempt launched by his devoted mother Gail (Michelle Williams) to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty (Plummer) to pony up and pay the ransom. The elder Getty is the cheapest billionaire ever, unwilling to part with a quarter, despite an extra affection for this particular grandson, so instead he sends a former government operative in Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to help Gail work with the kidnappers. What happens next is a matter of public record, but watching it unfold is fairly captivating. Scott directs an adapted screenplay by David Scarpa, while the rest of the cast includes Andrew Buchan, Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton, Teresa Mahoney, Stacy Martin, Charlie Shotwell, and more. Cinematography here is by Dariusz Wolski, while the score comes to us from Daniel Pemberton.

Scott deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done here. The film itself is solid, an above average effort for the veteran director. It’s often compelling, though drags a lot in the middle. It has a great central performance by Williams, who is the heart and soul of the picture, while Plummer is a commanding force in a supporting turn. That’s all well and good. However, the effort level is astounding, considering how he put Plummer in the role only a month ago, firing Spacey while in post production after his controversies threatened to derail the picture. That fact that you can barely tell there were any reshoots is a testament to Scott and company.

All the Money in the World is a legitimate awards player. The Golden Globes were just the first stage in a targeted campaign. Sony is launching an across the board effort in Best Picture, Best Director (for Scott), Best Actress (for Williams), Best Supporting Actor (for the elder Plummer, though also Duris, Hutton, the younger Plummer, and Wahlberg), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Scarpa), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects, though most of those are non starters. The focus will be on Picture, Actress for Williams, Supporting Actor for Plummer, and Adapted Screenplay for Scarpa, give or take Director for Scott. That’s where the money, no pun intended, should be.

When it opens, audiences will be able to see just what Plummer and Scott have done with All the Money in the World. It should be a curiosity at the very least to cinephiles, while the subject matter is the stuff of past tabloid gossip. In fact, the Getty family is about to get a TV miniseries from Danny Boyle, so the timing is perfect for this to come out. All the 11th hour machinations could have destroyed a solid flick. Instead, it just raised its profile and helped make it something a bit different in the season. When you see it, you’ll understand why. Scott defied the odds and deserves some high praise for it…

Stay tuned for more on All the Money in the World, between now and its late December release date!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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