The production for All the Money in the World has received more attention than the story that undergirds the film. Due to legal issues in the life of Kevin Spacey who was to portray the billionaire oil tycoon, a decision was made by director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) to replace the actor with another Academy Award winner, Christopher Plummer. In a remarkable feat of production by the cast and crew, the acclaimed director managed to deliver the film to theatres on its scheduled release date. The question for everyone was whether the film would have the same quality with the well-documented adjustments.
The Getty name still holds a certain amount of weight on the world stage, but many may not know the influence J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) had on world economics. From the 40’s to 70’s, he was considered one of the wealthiest men in the world because of his investment in Middle Eastern oil. His fortune, frugality and the tragic lifestyles choices of his family became infamous on a world stage. While the tycoon’s family lived in Rome, his grandson, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), was kidnapped. Despite his ability to pay any ransom requested, the senior Getty refused to pay the demands of the kidnappers. This left the responsibility of gaining the freedom of the younger heir in the hands of Gail Getty (Michelle Williams) and Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), Getty’s head of security. These two alongside Italian police determined how to negotiate for more time and ransom concessions for the sake of saving the teenaged boy’s life.
It is a wonder that the Getty’s have not been the attention of more films and television in the past. Each of the siblings and grandchildren provides enough historical material that would make the Kardashians envious. The kidnapping of John Paul Getty III was one of many sensationalistic aspects of the misfortunes that impacted the lives of this extended family. Based on John Pearson’s 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, this film’s portrayal took little artistic license with the story and stays close to the actual events surrounding the kidnapping. Due to the very public issues with the production, Scott proves his master’s hand at the craft and delivers a quality film with no evidence that Spacey had been part of the original.
The most notable change came in the marketing of the film, where the central story moved from a character-driven drama to a suspense thriller. This change is where audiences may have difficulty connecting with the film. Even though there are action and suspense throughout the film, the majority of the narrative sits in the analysis of the three central characters. The elements surrounding the young Getty’s kidnapping add some dramatic effect, but the thrust of the film is the chess-like negotiations between the three central characters who are trying to free the teen. The story ultimately makes for a fascinating lesson in history and is performed well by all involved, but may leave attendees who are looking for more action a bit underwhelmed.
Michelle Williams continues to prove her value within the industry by managing to overshadow Plummer and Wahlberg. Not to say the two male leads did not perform well, they filled their roles exceptionally well, but Williams was the standout performance. All that being said, it has to be Ridley Scott’s determination to make this film work for the social climate of this modern era that made this production come together in the end. He manages to bring a part of history to light, educate us on a notable figure in world economics and make it all engaging and entertaining. Hats off to you, Sir Ridley Scott.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” Matthew 6:24
Most people do not know that Jesus had quite a bit to say about money and not just how they should give to the church. His words dealt more with mankind’s priorities, and specifically, that money cannot be the primary focus of our lives.
Not to be misunderstood, Jesus did not state that money is evil or that he was not anti-money. His teachings went to how it ranked in our lives over other things, specifically to God. The words in the above passage could be asked a question: Who is your God? No one may say it is money, but if it takes precedence over all other things in your life, it has become your god.
In All the Money In The World, this idea manifests itself in the life of J. Paul Getty and his family and proves that money cannot buy happiness or satisfaction. The film shows the painful lesson that even with all of the money in the world, you are not the master of your domain, money is the master. The only real freedom and satisfaction can be found in God. Money is a vicious master, while the God of the Bible is a gracious and loving one.