Review: 'All the Money in the World': a sharp thriller that’s possibly better without Spacey

Christopher Plummer is J. Paul Getty in the film "All the Money in the World."


By MOIRA MACDONALD | The Seattle Times | Published: December 21, 2017

Sometimes, you’re simultaneously watching a movie on screen and a movie in your head. Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World,” based on the true story of the 1973 Rome kidnapping of billionaire J. Paul Getty’s teenage grandson, is such an experience.

The film made headlines earlier this fall after its star, Kevin Spacey, who played Getty, faced numerous accusations of sexual assault. Scott, with his completed film just weeks from opening, made a tough decision: He would reconvene his cast and, in lightning-quick time, reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes - with Christopher Plummer in the role. And yes, he would move the release date out. By three days.

And the result of this decision is -- who knew? -- quite possibly a better movie than the one originally filmed. Plummer’s a very different actor from Spacey: a generation older (actually closer to the age of the actual Getty) and possessed of a trademark irascible warmth, in contrast to Spacey’s patented icy deadpan. That quality brings nuance to the character, written here as the sort of miserly villain who explains to his neglected son that “I couldn’t be weighed down, mentally, with a family,” and whose initial response to the news of his grandson’s kidnapping is a staunch refusal to pay a penny of “my money” for the ransom. Plummer gives Getty the tiniest sense of amusement at his own awfulness; it’s a sly, enjoyable performance, and all the more impressive considering the speed at which it was captured. (Not that we necessarily should be thinking about this, or about how Spacey theoretically would play the role. But it can’t be helped.)

“All the Money in the World,” aside from Plummer, is a sharp and thoroughly professional thriller whose two hours zip by quickly. The locations (it was shot in Italy and the U.K.) look appropriately expensive; the story’s compelling and the cast is strong, particularly a Bryn Mawr-voiced Michelle Williams as Getty’s anguished daughter-in-law Gail. If it occasionally feels a little too cinematic, with a few too many obstacles thrown in the way of Gail and her son, so be it. The film’s an impressive accomplishment, on several levels.


3 stars

With Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton.

Directed by Ridley Scott, from a screenplay by David Scarpa, based on the book by John Pearson.

Running time: 132 minutes.

Rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.

Opens Dec. 25 in the U.S

© 2017 The Seattle Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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