Getty Family Values: All The Money In The World
A highly publicized hostage situation played out during the last half of 1973. The kidnapping victim was a member of one of the world's wealthiest families. All The Money In The World tells the story of the Getty family that primarily takes place during the months of this crisis. Italian gangsters kidnap teenager J. Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) from the streets of Rome and call his mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) for a ransom of $17 million. When she divorced J. Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan), she didn't ask for money, but sole custody of their children. Even though she doesn't have that kind of money and says that, the kidnapper contact, Cinquanta (Romain Duris), doesn't want to hear any excuse. He tells her to contact oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) for the funds. When Gail contacts the family patriarch, Getty refuses to give them any money, stating that paying would make his other grandchildren targets. To thwart rescue efforts, the gang keeps young Getty in a remote location.
Cinquanta and the others deliberately wear masks and other facial protection so the young heir can't identify any of them. When one of the gang fails to follow that protocol, he is shot dead and dumped in a river. Italian police mistake him for young Getty until Gail and Getty's security chief, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) positively say the dead man isn't the teen. That also helps Chase pinpoint the young man's location and investigate. Cinquanta lets it be known that the ransom demand has been lowered, but the billionaire won't budge on payment. His grandson attempts an escape, but gets caught and punished severely. As Chase continues to investigate and negotiate, he, like Gail, starts to wonder what will make Getty decide to part with any cash and not act as though paying the ransom will put him in the poor house.
All The Money In The World is based on the book written by John Pearson about the Getty kidnapping. Director Ridley Scott shows a compelling battle of wills from three factions. The kidnappers never expected any struggle to get paid, in spite of their actions and constant demands. Getty himself may worry about a grandson who was the world's richest private citizen, but he never wagers from his original position. Gail and Fletcher find themselves caught in the middle, trying to find a way to end the hostage situation. The story is both frustrating and funny as nobody gets anywhere with their stance, as a billionaire remains rigid, even as the mob-connected kidnappers lower their demands. An element of danger comes in the later stages, when young Getty and his captors grow impatient. All The Money In The World compares favorably to another Scott truth-based drama, American Gangster, but the latter has a more rounded portrait of the sides in the conflict. Scott also deserves praise for salvaging a project that became unexpectedly blindsided by trouble.
While Williams and Wahlberg turn in admirable performances, Christopher Plummer owns every moment of his screen time as a tycoon who wants things his way or no way. Plummer's Getty comes across as an Ebenezer Scrooge who never reformed. As the title suggests, this Getty will not rest until the world's riches come into the hands of he and his family. He scarcely gives time to Gail or Fletcher, as he'd rather check his ticker tape or acquire a piece of art than remove his grandson from danger. He never has a smile on his face, as though his thirst for wealth is never satisfied. Williams brings a human touch as Gail, a mother who works against a mob, as well as against a man who seems to think compassion is a weakness. She does get an explanation of sorts about the tycoon's behavior from his legal counsel, Oswald Hinge (Timothy Hutton), but his words do not excuse his boss's actions or attitude. Wahlberg shows skill as Chase, and uses them to try and make Getty listen to reason, with generally frustrating results.
All The Money In The World seems to have relevance in a world where some people care more about their own bottom line than the welfare of anybody who isn't family. A billionaire spends a great deal of time choosing wealth over family, even though parting with the wealth wouldn't really affect him. Like many affluent people today, J. Paul Getty put a distance between himself and the rest of the world. Getty had to learn he could only get so much distance before reality paid a harsh call.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give All The Money In The World 3.5 stars. A sad look inside Getty's money world.