I’m not gonna lie—it takes a good ten or fifteen minutes to stop comparing Christopher Plummer’s performance as J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World to what you imagine Kevin Spacey originally did in the same role. And eventually you’ll come to realize that Plummer is probably dancing circles around Spacey’s work; it’s a performance that is, by itself, worth the price of the movie ticket.

Then you’ll start to thank the cinematic gods that director Ridley Scott didn’t just throw up his hands at the end of October when Spacey was ostracized in the wake of sexual abuse allegations (and offering perhaps the most awful mea culpa in history). Instead Scott spent nine days and ten million dollars to excise Spacey and re-shoot the scenes with Plummer instead—not to mention setting up locations, making sure Plummer had time to memorize his lines, calling the cast back to work over Thanksgiving, and then giving it all to the editors to cut it all together seamlessly.

Even without all the behind-the-scenes drama All the Money in the World is a stunning achievement. With all that factored in, it’s utterly mind-boggling.

The story of the 1973 kidnapping of Getty’s grandson Paul (Charlie Plummer, no relation) and Getty’s subsequent refusal to pay the ransom (despite his being worth an estimated two billion dollars at the time), Money is a riveting crime drama mixed with a survival tale, a hostage adventure, and a behind-the-curtain look at one of history’s all-time dysfunctional families.

Beginning on the night of the kidnapping in Rome, Money launches into the meat of the story right off the bat and rarely lets up to give the audience a chance to catch its breath. Paul is shuttled to a farmhouse in southern Italy, where his captors afford him decent living conditions while demanding $17 million for his release.

His mother (and Getty’s daughter-in-law) Gail goes to the patriarch for the money, but he denies her, stating coldly (and famously), “I have 14 grandchildren, and if I pay one penny ransom, I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.” With no other recourse, Gail (an astounding Michelle Williams) is forced to work with Getty’s security chief Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to get her son released.

Working from a loosely accurate script by David Scarpa (The Last Castle), Scott continues his winning ways, following up May’s excellent Alien: Covenant with another movie that will make audiences sit up and take note. At eighty years old, he shows no signs of slowing down or of his talents diminishing; his eye is just as sharp as ever, and, working alongside his frequent cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, Scott gives Money a perfectly vintage feel.

His cast steps up with convincing performances, led by Williams and Plummer—the latter of whom obviously deserves extra credit for his eleventh hour save, which will end up making you think it was simply his role all along. You may find yourself scouring each frame for some kind of proof that this film, barely a month ago, looked drastically different, but you’ll be hard pressed. Instead you’ll wind up convinced that Ridley Scott is nothing short of a miracle worker.


4.5/5 stars