John Paul Getty founded the Getty Oil Company and at one point was named the richest man in the world. It’s because of this title that Getty’s 16 year old grandson John Paul Getty III was kidnapped in 1973 and help captive for five months. His mother, Gail, received a call demanding $17 million for his release and immediately went to her father-in-law for help, but he refused stating: “I have 14 other grandchildren and if I pay one penny now, then I will have 14 kidnapped grandchildren”. After four months of beating and torture, the kidnappers decide to get serious and cut off one of Getty III’s ears, sending it to a local newspaper. After this, Getty took the kidnapping seriously and agreed to pay but only after cutting a deal and bringing the ransom down to around $3 million.
All the Money in the World is a biography – directed by Ridley Scott – depicting this moment in time. We start with the kidnapping (led by a voice-over of Getty III) but soon go back in time to give us a brief background of Getty’s rise to wealth, Getty III’s childhood and the relationship between Grandad and Grandson. These flashbacks are interspersed with real time and so things get a little confusing at times, but once the background has been revealed things become clearer. Getty is played by Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) – although his part was last minute after Kevin Spacey was dropped due to certain allegations, resulting in a complete re-shoot of the film. Plummer’s portrayal of Getty shows him as a cold-hearted man who’s only contribution towards helping his grandson is to hire ex CIA spy Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon) to assist Gail (Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain, Manchester by the Sea) in her search. Together Chase and Gail attempt to track down the location of Getty III whilst all the time fighting Getty to get him to pay the ransom.
Michelle Williams is a great actress and her portrayal of Gail shows a mother desperate to save her son, going to any lengths to ensure his release. It’s clear she doesn’t understand how Getty can so easily dismiss her pleas for help and as the audience we side with her immediately and will her to continue fighting for the money that Getty so clearly has. Wahlberg has done his fair share of biographies recently, but here his role isn’t as important as that of the Getty family’s. Instead he supports the leads and is there to keep the investigation moving forward as he hunts down clues as to who and where the kidnappers are.
Getty III is played by Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher) and he does an excellent job at playing the frightened 16 year old. The poor lad can’t understand why his grandfather doesn’t pay up immediately and with no communication from the outside world – apart from with his kidnappers – he has no idea what efforts his mother is going to in order to save him. When it comes to the cutting off of his ear, Charlie does a fantastic job of showing us the fear and desperation of this young lad. I personally couldn’t watch the scene, but am told that you see more of the faces of those around the procedure than the actual cutting itself.
Overall, All the Money in the World has a great cast that all do excellent jobs but for me there was something missing. At over two hours long the film drags a little and there’s nothing in it except the ear cutting that makes it tense or thrilling. Before and after that scene it’s just a lot of talking, with great emphasis on the fact that Getty was refusing any money (and in the end only agreed to give a small amount because he found out he could avoid tax on it!). The story itself is fascinating but unfortunately the film doesn’t have enough in it to really grip you.