It’s a testament to Sony Pictures that Ridley Scott’s film, All The Money in the World, was ready for Christmas. To think that Christopher Plummer started shooting his scenes less than a month ago, and that the film is ready and coherent is a minor miracle. However, just because the movie is finished doesn’t mean it’s effective. There are scenes within the movie that work very well and the overall effect is chilling. There is something that represents form and function that is a little uncomfortable and we’re not able to distance how the film was made and its subject matter.
At the heart of its story is the question: “what is the value of a human life”. This speaks to the previous casting choice, but also to the character of young Paul Getty (Charlie Plummer, no relation). Paul is, to put it bluntly, a brat, and at no point in the tricky film does the audience ever feel sorry for the kid, nor for any member of the Getty family. Plummer is perfectly cast (the second time around) as the patriarch of a truly malevolent clan that values money above all.
Scott seems to suggest that money corrupts absolutely, and as such, J. Paul Getty is made to be the antagonist of the film, even more so than the actual kidnappers, the Italian mafia, the Sicilians, or the collectors. In addition, there seems to be a suggestion of a sort of Getty curse that strains and infects the family, as the son is reduced to a minor character, young Paul seems like an addict like his father, and Michelle Williams is tainted by association as Abigail Getty. Why Williams sounds like Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland is unexplained and Mark Wahlberg’s Fletcher Chase seems to be the least effective advisor and body man in history.
We’re left with a story with few heroes, more villains and a bleak perspective of how money is a corrupting influence. It’s a perfect metaphor for the Trump age and truly does question about the value of a human life. But it is a weird way to get there.