The year is 1973 and in Rome, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), drop-out grandson of the billionaire John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), is out on the streets one night when he is bundled into the back of a van and kidnapped. The criminals believe that he will be worth seventeen million dollars to them if his grandfather pays the ransom, but what they do not know is that Paul is estranged from the old man, and has not spoken to him in years as he lives with his mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), who has been divorced from Joan Paul Getty Jr (Andrew Buchan) for some time now. Basically, there is no money to pay the kidnappers - will the oil magnate help or not?
No, he will not, and that was the hook that this production of real events hoped would snare the substantial audience it wanted. However, it turned out not to be the biggest story in connection a mere two months before release, not in its contemporary world anyway, as one of the stars was Kevin Spacey who was playing J.P. Getty under layers of makeup. He was suddenly at the centre of a scandal himself when he was accused of sexual impropriety with many young men who were not interested in his advances, which meant bad publicity was sure to dog All the Money in the World even before it hit the cinemas, so director Ridley Scott decided to turn a negative into a positive.
Ironically, the news story completely overshadowed the film, with every mention in the media going on about Christopher Plummer replacing Spacey in record time reshoots and not discussing the merits of the project as realised other than its technical marvel and Scott's workhorse dedication to getting the job done. Indeed, when opinions were offered about the quality of the results, they were often lukewarm, offering that while it had the accustomed gloss Scott was a past master at by this late stage in his long career, dramatically it was rather inert, and its musing over what corruptive power money can have, from those who have lots to those who desire plenty, not exactly potent.
This was one of those twenty-first century pop culture items to look back on the nineteen-seventies and judge it to be a hellscape of immorality, and in a perverse manner revel in that lack of morals as if the future were rubbernecking at a major car crash from decades in the past. It was true the seventies were a time of turmoil where the optimism of the sixties curdled, yet there was a lot of good that arrived in that era works such as this were conveniently ignoring to flatter the present as being somehow better or fairer than what had gone before, retaining its own form of optimism in the face of report after report of sexual crimes that littered the headlines consistently during this time. Perhaps the truth was that every era has its scandals, and we ignore that at our peril, something this film made allusions but did not entirely commit to.
Plummer played Getty as a sort of eccentric relative whose obsession with his fortune reveals his venal side: he has his money now, it's all his and nobody else's, so when the Italian kidnappers demand the ransom for his grandson, there was a twisted amusement in seeing them be foiled by the old man's greed and utter lack of generosity, be that financial or emotional. Williams grew into her role as the passive Gail, useless in the hands of all the whims of men who cannot see any humanity, they have those dollar signs lit up in their eyes like cartoons and care nothing for mental anguish or doing the decent thing. Though this film stuck to the facts fairly well, by the end it had invented its own conclusion to make sure all the baddies got their comeuppance, which was not how events unfolded in real life, so the finale hit a false note, a pity after Scott had been so committed to his vision of a society going to the dogs when it is ruled by its avarice. Better as a grim, well-orchestrated mood piece than accurate history, then, that timbre unusual for a big studio effort in itself. Music by Daniel Pemberton.
Talented, prolific British director whose background in set design and advertising always brings a stylised, visually stunning sheen to often mainstream projects. Scott made his debut in 1977 with the unusual The Duellists, but it was with his next two films - now-classic sci-fi thrillers Alien and Blade Runner - that he really made his mark. Slick fantasy Legend and excellent thriller Someone to Watch Over Me followed, while Thelma and Louise proved one of the most talked-about films of 1991. However, his subsequent movies - the mega-budget flop 1492, GI Jane and the hopeless White Squall failed to satisfy critics or find audiences.
Scott bounced back to the A-list in 2000 with the Oscar-winning epic Gladiator, and since then has had big hits with uneven Hannibal, savage war drama Black Hawk Down and his Robin Hood update. Prometheus, tentatively sold as a spin-off from Alien, created a huge buzz in 2012, then a lot of indignation. His Cormac McCarthy-penned thriller The Counselor didn't even get the buzz, flopping badly then turning cult movie. Exodus: Gods and Kings was a controversial Biblical epic, but a success at the box office, as was sci-fi survival tale The Martian. Alien Covenant was the second in his sci-fi prequel trilogy, but did not go down well with fans, while All the Money in the World was best known for the behind the scenes troubles it overcame. Brother to the more commercial, less cerebral Tony Scott.