Cinematic Releases: A Meditation on Capitalism: All The Money In The World (2017) - Reviewed

All the Money in the World, a feature based on the real life events of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, functions not only as a ransom tale, but also as a meditation on capitalism and a possible blueprint for exemplary behavior in the post-Weinstein era. 

The story starts with the kidnapping of John “Paul” Getty III, followed by flashbacks that set the stage for the damning conflict -- a boy from the world’s richest family is kidnapped, while his grandfather refuses to pay the ransom, however affordable it is to him. While Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, Romain Duris turn in great performances, Christopher Plummer’s role in this movie is by far the most intriguing. Aside from playing the most idiosyncratic character in the film, Plummer’s performance can’t help but be overshadowed by its erasure of Kevin Spacey’s role on the screen. While Plummer plays his character convincingly enough to let the audience in on how a grandfather could dangle his grandson’s life, in matters of pride and economics, you can’t help but see how Kevin Spacey could have also been as wonderfully despicable as Plummer. 

The peek inside J. Paul Getty’s mind is what separates this ransom story from other ransom stories. Christopher Plummer plays a character who is mean, vindictive, and calculating. Every acquisition is part of a great, big game -- and when his on-screen grandson’s life is on the line, he is still trying not to lose, for no purchase “is worth full price” to him. 

Ridley Scott successfully builds up the drama by including some true-to-life gore, as well as some chase scenes which are as disheartening as they are believable. His mix of the 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, and some dramatic flourishes make for a movie that keeps you on your seat and engaged. 

The one knock against this film is that for years going forward, it may not be very memorable for the years to come. Just as John Paul Getty’s life gets trivialized by everyone around him trying to make a profit (or reduce a loss), the events in portrayed in the movie can get trivialized as mere consequences of capitalism -- where they can be profits made, make them, whether its ransoming a child or making a movie about the ransoming of a child. Many will think that Scott took the high road in replacing Spacey with Plummer, but the morality play pales in comparison to the barbarism displayed on-screen, and perhaps with the audience, for watching it. 

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-Blake Pynnonen