A pair of real-life stories are at the heart of All The Money In The World. The first is the one built around the narrative: the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson of billionaire oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty. The film chronicles the investigation and the private wrangling the Getty family went through to achieve the release of John, with the biggest block to this proving to be the billionaire grandfather.
The second story is the behind-the-scenes one of the making of this film. Or specifically the final few months before its release. In October All The Money In The World found itself caught up in a scandal and became seemingly unreleasable. The solution was to reshoot huge chunks of film, bringing Christopher Plummer on board to replace original star Kevin Spacey. It is a mark of Ridley Scott's skill as a director that the film is being released this January with such extensive changes.
So what of the film we are left with? All The Money In The World is an interesting if sprawling drama that is neither lean enough to work as a kidnap thriller nor with enough time to dig too deep into the Gettys, a truly fascinating subject matter. Scott brings his usual quality to the production of this film with a classy gloss and suitably authentic period details that fits its award ambitions. But while he has reshot and reshaped his film at a breathtaking speed, he cannot fix the circumstance the film has found itself in, with the film gaining a morbid curiosity that overwhelms it.
Plummer’s performance is strong enough to overcome the focus of his casting, and for the most parts he fits the film well, with only one noticeable instance of poor CGI showing the fault lines. He dominates his scenes, bringing a callous cruelty to the part as well as some of that twinkling charm that has so defined his career. Yet if Plummer is the face of this film, then Michelle William is its beating heart. The actor is her usual stellar self, doing fine work as Gail, mother to John. She brings the pain and anguish of a desperate figure, but never loses the quality that makes the character such a fascinatingly determined individual. It is great work from the actor and it is a shame that it has been lost somewhat in the drama that surround the film.
All The Money In the World is a curiously broken film, undone by circumstances beyond its control. The film seems to exist now to disprove that all publicity is good publicity. We have all heard about the reshooting that has taken place here and while it has gifted us with the kind of complicated performance worthy of award contention it has led to a film stuck in a shadow it can't hope to escape. It turns out there is only so much that Plummer can save.