Real-Life Kidnapping Case Makes Fascinating Drama
All the Money in the world deals with the kidnapping case of John Paul Getty III (known as Paul), which was a world-wide sensation in 1973. Captivated by the kidnapping of the grandson of billionaire oil magnate John Paul Getty, newspapers covered the event daily in gruesome details for the eager public. Television coverage was extensive, with cameras shoved into the faces of all those involved in the Getty family. There was no such thing as “privacy” for the stressed family members. And, because the kidnapping took place in Rome, the notorious Italian “paparazzi” cameramen were relentless in their pursuit of any and all Getty relatives.
Young 16 year-old Paul, as he was known, was living in Rome on his own in a somewhat hippie crowd composed of artists, actors, fashion designers and the usual hangers-on. His father, John Paul Getty, Jr.,(Andrew Buchan) has more or less abandoned the boy and gone off to Morocco and the drug dens. Paul, played engagingly by handsome Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher), is whisked off the streets of Rome and into a VW van by thuggish members of the Red Brigade. Knowing Paul’s grandfather is the richest man in the world, they demand a $17 million ransom.
Michelle Williams plays Paul’s mother Gail Harris. Apparently nearly poverty stricken after having divorced Paul’s father, she has gotten only custody of the children and no money. She is determined to save her son, whom she loves dearly. Williams plays not only a distressed mother, but a woman who is determined to get Getty Sr. to cough up the ransom money to save his grandson. A no-nonsense character who will not take no for an answer, she is marvelous in her resolve. This may have taken place forty years ago, but Williams plays Gail as a woman of strength from today. She’s even gutsy enough to negotiate with the kidnappers over the phone. She manages to connect with ruffian Cinquanta (Romain Duris), who has taken a liking to Paul. Her phone scenes are reminiscent of other great movie phone scenes such as Barbara Stanwyck’s in “Sorry Wrong Number”(1948) and Luise Rainer’s in “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936).
At 80 years old, director Ridley Scott has managed to keep the film moving along at a dynamic speed. He’s certainly not past his prime, and the film’s constantly changing locations keep the viewer’s nerves at a heightened vibration. Also, the scenes of Rome and the Italian countryside are delightful under cameraman Dariusz Wolsky’s artistic eye.
What superlatives can we, and must we, use to describe Christopher Plummer’s performance as the crusty, penurious old curmudgeon J. Paul Getty? Coming into the picture with only ten days to re-shoot the disgraced Kevin Spacey’s scenes as the elder Getty, Plummer shows he is a consummate actor who can learn lines in two minutes because of his stage background. No longer the matinee idol he was in 1965’s smash musical “The Sound of Music,” he nonetheless overtakes the screen and gives a performance that is witty, funny, grumpy, mean, and compassionate! Let’s see some of the younger screen actors accomplish that in a mere ten days of filming. At 88, he shows what a great actor he remains. He certainly deserves the courtesy of an acting nomination this year at the Oscars®.
Although Scott and screenwriter David Scarpa have based their film on a book written by John Pearson, they have taken “dramatic license” to re-arrange a few facts, fabricate some events, and attribute actions to players that never happened (Paul’s mother was never offered the chairmanship of Getty Oil). Other than those minor complaints, the movie is enjoyable and fascinating from the beginning scenes at the Spanish Steps to the end. A note of praise goes to young Charlie Plummer as the scared young Paul, and a nod to the workmanship of star Mark Walberg as former CIA Operative Fletcher Chase, an ally to Paul’s mom Gail.
(Released by Sony Pictures Entertainment and rated “R” for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.)