How money drives us and our decisions is of no surprise. We are all a bit selfish, and deep down probably enjoy the comfort that comes with self-preservation. I know I do, but, then, I am consistently in a state of not having any money. We all are. The privileged few that do have, as the title would suggest, All the Money in the World, are gluttonous. At least, that is what director Ridley Scott would wish to proclaim. Based on the tumultuous story of the Getty family and the kidnapping they work through, there is plenty of time to study greed and grief, but it stumbles far too often.
We as an audience are given all the events necessary to engage with the story. Within only a few minutes, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped. Dragged away from the light of the public, it is up to his frankly unconcerned grandfather, John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) and his other relatives to help him. Getty is the richest man in the world and has the funds necessary to free a blood relative. It is fine enough, told through narration and flashes to the past. Scott’s direction lacks urgency, but so too does Getty. Plummer is a strong stand-in, replacing Kevin Spacey at the last minute. Considering the rush necessary, it is surprising to see how great a performance Plummer gives. He was always on top of his game and is one of the few bright lights shining throughout this cold, dark film. Ironically, his character is the coldest of them all, unconcerned by his grandson’s sudden disappearance and kidnapping.
That is the very core of this Scott piece. It is not of incredible interest, beyond faintly interesting tones of how greed corrupts and blinds those to ethical dilemmas. While there is not enough of that to make for exciting viewing, Scott manages his cast well enough to avoid any moments of complete disaster. Stripped back to its essentials, though, and All the Money in the World is nothing more than a bumbling old man, shuffling around thinking up reasons for not parting with a small fortune. It is as uninteresting and banal as it sounds. Dialogue this mediocre can be prodded and pushed to its limit, but will still yield limp and lazy results. Plummer plugs away as best he can, but it is nothing compared to how tiresome the film becomes. There is no real sense of direction, and where we go is of no concern to Scott.
All the Money in the World is a painfully mediocre piece, buoyed somewhat by the controversy and buzz around it. Such talk eclipsed any quality the film could hope for, casting a shadow on the capable ensemble Scott presents. With stronger dialogue, this could have been a gripping thriller. Instead, it is a dribbling mess of ideas, thrown together with a rush that was neither avoidable nor controllable. Credit to them for trying to get themselves together, but when the best part of your film is the actor who stepped in at the last second, then there are more than a few problems with the foundations, and that rings true for this true-story inspired drudgery.