Plumming the Loss of Space in All The Money In The World

All The Money In The World was the most discussed film of 2017, since director Ridley Scott remade four hundred shots (on an ambitious nine-day schedule in Britain and Italy), with Christopher Plummer playing Jean Paul Getty, to prevent the film from being tainted by Kevin Spacey’s sexual assault allegations — who had previously starred in the role.

This choice has been much debated in the media. Sexual harassment is wrong, abuse of power is wrong, stealing is wrong, killing is absolutely wrong, but what should we say about the master of Italian Renaissance painting, Caravaggio? He was a full-blown murderer, but should we remove all of his outstanding works from museums and churches? History has plenty of examples of geniuses in the arts who were makers of beauty, but had a shady soul.

Other than the Spacey controversy, the film’s strength is the terrific performance by the entire cast, especially Christopher Plummer. All The Money In The World chronicles —with some artistic license — the kidnapping of Getty’s 16-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III. The fact occurred in Rome in 1973, and the kidnappers from ‘Ndràngheta (the organized crime group centered in the region of Calabria), demanded by telephone $17 million for the teenager’s safe return.

Getty initially refused to pay the ransom, arguing that to submit to the kidnappers’ demands would place his other fourteen grandchildren at the risk of being abducted too. At one point there was also the suspicion that the rebellious boy had come up with a ploy to extract money from his grandfather. But when an envelope containing Paul’s ear arrived at a daily newspaper, everyone realized there was little time to lose. The most horrific aspect of the story was the magnate’s attachment to money. Getty senior agreed to pay no more than the sum that would be tax deductible and lent his son the remaining amount at 4% interest.

Ridley Scott did a terrific job, directing a gripping and beautiful film, with visual elements that are engaging and poetic, also thanks to Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography. The script by David Scarpa is the weak point of the movie. Several elements withdraw from the true event, although it is specified in the final credits. Michelle Williams (Gail Harris, Getty III’s mother) is adept, as in every role she plays. The mother figure comes naturally to her. In this case she projects the humanity that lacks to the family of businessmen, yet maintaining fortitude of character. Mark Wahlberg (Fletcher Chase) is imperturbable as Gail and Getty’s advisor and former CIA operative, and Charlie Plummer (John Paul Getty III) delivers an intense performance as the victim of the abduction.

The greatest hero of All The Money In The World — who allowed its release to remain on December 22nd 2017 despite the tour de force reshoot — is undoubtedly the editor Claire Simpson. Every night she would cut and insert the footage that had been produced during the day. The aesthetic result is remarkable and the actors’ interpretations are electrifying, despite the flawed screenplay. The last-minute replacement of one of the lead actors did not compromise the final result. Actually, Christopher Plummer seems more suitable in age, demeanor and aspect than his brilliant predecessor. Kevin Spacey’s monument to the greedy Frank Underwood from House of Cards, might have obscured the audiences’ reception towards his interpretation of a similar capitalistic villain.