All the Money in the World




Late in 2017, the famous Ridley Scott had just finished his film based on the real life kidnapping of the 16 year old grandson of John Paul Getty in Rome in 1973, when a month before its scheduled release, scandal engulfed its star Kevin Spacey.  Faced with a commercial disaster Scott swung into rapid action.  Veteran Christopher Plummer was brought in to play the role and at an additional cost of $10 million dollars, Scott reshot every Spacey scene.  The result is a testament to the sheer brilliance of Plummer as with very little lead-in time, he took over the role, acted it to perfection and the entire reshoot was effected in only nine days.   


Most of my generation recall the kidnapping.  It made global headlines and dominated the news initially.  John Paul Getty at the time was not just the richest man in the world, but he was the richest man in the history of the world.  His son John Paul Getty Jr. had spent much of the 1960’s with his second wife in a hippie lifestyle, drifting around England and Morocco in a haze of drugs.  His son from his first marriage, John Paul Getty III (known as Paul), remained in Rome with his mother Gail and grandfather.  In May 1973, the boy was abducted and taken to a location in the southern Italian region of Calabria and a ransom note demanding $17 million dollars was received by the family. 

As Gail had no monies of her own and John Paul Getty Jr. was living erratically in a hash haze, it fell to the oil tycoon, at that time living in a vast mansion in the English countryside, to cough up the cash.  But despite such vast sums of wealth that he could not conceivably spend it in ten lifetimes, the cagey old man was notoriously frugal in many, many ways and refused to pay up.  He handed the matter to Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), a former CIA operative now working as Getty’s fixer.


When a few months later, the boy’s ear and a lock of his hair were sent to a newspaper stating that “pieces of him would continue to be posted unless the ransom was forthcoming”, Getty negotiated with the kidnappers and a price of $2.9 million was agreed.  Getty Sr. paid $2.2 million (the maximum amount that was tax deductible) and loaned the remainder to his son (Getty Jr. had to repay the loan at 4% interest).


We will never know how Spacey handled the role but the 88 year old Plummer absolutely nailed it, finding layers and nuances in the character that stretched much deeper than allowed by the serviceable but ‘by the numbers’ script.  Michelle Williams does nicely tackling the underwritten but highly sympathetic role of Gail and delivers her tenaciously heartfelt resonance to the role..  The boy is played by Charlie Plummer (no relation) and he is well cast.


While the masterly hand of Ridley Scott is evident in the excellently wrought suspense and flawless pacing and direction and the cinematography by Dariusz Wolski is high standard, it is Christopher Plummer’s genuinely stunning recreation of the emotionally stunted, miserly ruthless and dictatorial enigma that was John Paul Getty Sr. that triumphs completely.  A man who had no need of human touch but gained sustenance from caressing his extraordinary art collection (most of which ended up in the Getty museum.)    


As an aside, the son of former kidnap victim John Paul Getty III (who died in 2011) is Balthazar Getty, an American actor who has forged a solid film and television career.  If you look him up I would be surprised if you have not seen him in a few productions since his screen debut in 1989.




Comments are closed.