Getty kidnap film is an example of Ridley Scott firing on all cylinders
Review: All the Money in the World deserves to be remembered for more than just the reshoot drama
Ridley Scott is one of the most prolific and successful directors of the last 40 years. He’s given the world some truly iconic cinematic moments, like 1979’s Alien and 1982’s Blade Runner, as well as the occasional dud (2010’s Robin Hood).
It’s unfortunate, however, that whether All the Money in the World is taken to audience’s hearts with as much vigour as Alien, or sinks to depths lower than Robin Hood, it will always be remembered as “that film with the reshoot.”
To recap, when the harassment allegations regarding the film’s original star, Kevin Spacey, came to light in late October, 2017, just seven weeks before the movie’s slated December release, Scott acted quickly. He immediately recast Christopher Plummer as oil billionaire JP Getty, and reassembled the film’s cast and crew to reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes in just nine days, successfully sticking to a December US release.
It’s testament to Plummer’s talent that, while the film still looks destined to be “that film,” it seems sure to be remembered as “that Christopher Plummer film", rather than “that Kevin Spacey film.”
Plummer’s performance is a revelation as the cantankerous oil baron, at that point the richest man in history, who refused to pay the ransom for his kidnapped grandson on the basis that, “I have 14 grandchildren. If I start paying ransoms, I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.”
We’ll probably never see Spacey’s interpretation, but it’s hard to imagine he could improve on Plummer – who Scott had, in fact, originally considered for the role. While Spacey tends to deliver characters with an element of the weird and dangerous, Plummer takes a charmingly subtle approach to Getty. He seems to understand that the character’s actions are disturbing and fascinating enough without adding elements of the moustache-twirling villain to the mix.
Plummer has already been rewarded with Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Oscars, but to call him supporting is a disservice. When the reshoots were announced, the team behind the film gave the calm impression that Getty Senior was a bit part, the disruption would be minimal.
In fact, while Mark Wahlberg may edge Plummer for screentime as a Getty fixer and former CIA agent trying to track down the missing teen, this is very much Getty’s story alongside that of his estranged, relatively-penniless daughter-in-law Gail (Michelle Williams) who has to use every weapon at her disposal to try and win over the heartless old brute – not an easy task when the only thing the proud old man has lost in his charmed life is the custody of Gail’s children.
Conversely, the publicity generated by the reshoot story should help to offset the marketing time Sony lost while the film reshot and materials were redesigned, but don’t go because of the publicity or the controversy. Go because this is an expertly-crafted tale of drama, mystery, suspense and humanity with incredible performances from both Plummer and Williams, and a stranger-than-fiction storyline as Getty stands firm while his decreasingly valuable grandson is incompetently passed from one political, criminal or gangster mob to another.
The film probably won’t generate the same levels of adoration as Alien or Blade Runner, but nor will it be seen as a new Robin Hood in years to come. It deserves to sit very much in the upper echelons of Scott’s impressive body of work.