Should Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World” be measured by the usual critical apparatus or with a stopwatch?
If the latter, Scott’s movie wins the race, hands down. “All the Money in the World” has, with remarkably few signs of haste, accomplished its unenviable task of recasting Kevin Spacey’s role with Christopher Plummer. Plummer parachuted in a few weeks ago to shoot his nine days of work, and Scott has toiled around the clock to recut and remake his own movie. Like a bank thief covering tracks and wiping fingerprints, Scott has erased all trace of Spacey.
That alone makes “All the Money in the World” a fascinating footnote in the larger ongoing drama of the “Me Too” reckoning. And considering the way things are going, Plummer should keep his bags packed. We may need his services again.
But was it worth the trouble? “All the Money in the World,” about the 1973 kidnapping of the grandson of billionaire oil tycoon John Paul Getty (Plummer), is, for better and worse, every bit a Scott production: a solidly built, no-nonsense drama, largely without surprise. But its saving grace isn’t Plummer. It’s Michelle Williams.
She plays Gail Harris, the distraught mother of the kidnapped 16-year-old “little Paul” (Charlie Plummer, no relation). When Getty refuses to pay the kidnappers’ demands of $17 million, she’s left virtually alone in seeking his release, aside from the inattentive help of Getty’s overconfident, former-CIA fixer, Fletcher Case (Mark Wahlberg). As a woman locked inside an oppressively male world, Williams’ performance — gripping and glamorous — slides in comfortably with Scott’s best female protagonists (Ripley, Thelma, Louise).
Getty married five times and young Paul was one of 14 grandchildren. When he was taken, Getty, then one of the richest men in the world, told reporters: “If I pay one penny now, I’ll have 14 kidnapped children.”