Susan Granger’s review of “All the Money in the World” (Sony Pictures/Tri-Star)
Perhaps even more fascinating than this fact-based kidnap drama is how 80 year-old director Ridley Scott replaced scandal-riddled Kevin Spacey with 88 year-old Christopher Plummer as billionaire J. Paul Getty. After re-filming 22 scenes, Scott seamlessly edited old reaction shots with the new footage.
In 1973, bohemian, 16 year-old John ‘Paul’ Getty III (Charlie Plummer) was kidnapped in Rome. His frantic mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), was desperate to deliver the $17 million ransom the kidnappers demanded, but his grandfather declined to pay.
Instead, obstinate Getty summoned an ex-C.I.A. agent, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), the family ‘fixer,’ skilled in security and crisis management, to track Paul down.
(A pioneering oil tycoon, rapacious Getty was at that time the richest man in history. He paid no taxes because his global estate was in a charitable trust, allowing him to invest in art work and antiquities, many of which are on display at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.)
Notoriously frugal, he installed a pay phone for visitors at his baronial, 72-room British mansion. Elderly Getty icily claimed that, since he had 14 grandchildren, paying a ransom for Paul would encourage further kidnappings.
Italian crime syndicate operatives, a Calabrian faction of the Red Brigade, an urban terrorist organization, held the troubled teenager hostage in the countryside. At one point, the thugs cut off Paul’s right ear and mailed it to a Rome newspaper, as Cinquanta (Romain Duris) continued the negotiation.
Scripted by David Scarpa, based on John Pearson’s Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty (1995), it’s a tense, infamously true thriller/character study, never delving into sentiment or moral judgment. End credits acknowledge that certain historical scenes were fictionalized for dramatic effect.
FYI: Charlie Plummer is not related to Christopher. Paul Getty’s son, Balthazar, is an actor. And soon, FX will broadcast “Trust,” a mini-series depicting the same case.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “All the Money in the World” is a suspenseful 7, featuring a smoldering, persuasive performance by Christopher Plummer.