This film will go down in movielore for the stand director Ridley Scott took, in replacing the controversy-tainted Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer with just a few weeks to go for the release of All The Money In The World.
Plummer plays the fabulously rich and notoriously miserly J Paul Getty with Scrooge-like malice and grandfatherly cheer. Getty is the kind of man who gifts his grandson what he claims is a priceless antique, which turns out to be a cheap tourist souvenir; the kind of a man who installs a red London phone booth in his living room, so that guests have to pay for any calls they make.
He says he loves his grandson John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), but when the teenager is kidnapped in Rome by Red Army thugs for a ransom of $17 million, he refuses to pay — the reason being that it might to lead to more kidnappings of his 14 other grandchildren.
Paul’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) is portrayed as a non-avaricious woman who signs off any claims to the Getty fortune in return for full custody of her kids, when she divorces the shiftless, drug-addled John Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan). She does not have money to pay the abductors, and in desperation reaches out to her ex-father-in-law, who refuses to meet her.
The old man does send his security in-charge and general fixer Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to oversee the negotiations with the kidnappers and the efforts of the Italian police to trace them. Gail refuses to break or weep even when she is harassed by the paparazzi and Williams plays her with a steely determination that hides a soft core of unconditional maternal love.
Scott focuses on the emotional tug-of-war between the mother and the grandfather, he does not bother about the other members of the Getty family or even Paul’s siblings. The kidnapped boy suffers in captivity, with only one of the captors, Cinquanta (Romain Duris) being somewhat sympathetic.
By the time the cops reach the hideout, Paul has been ‘sold’ to another gang of ruthless ‘investors’ who do not hesitate to cut off one boy’s ear and send it to a newspaper. The old man then offers to cough up some money, but only what is tax deductible.
Based on the book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J Paul Getty by John Pearson, the film is as much a thriller (though the outcome of the story is known), as it is a satire on the lives of the wealthy and a dark look at greed and cruelty engendered by money — the possession or the lack of it. The real Paul’s life was wrecked by this incident and all the money in the world could not heal his trauma.