“If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem” – J. Paul Getty
“If you look after the pennies, the dollars will look after themselves” – J. Paul Getty
Prior to its release, most news about the film All The Money in the World dealt with the fact that Christopher Plummer (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) had replaced Kevin Spacey in the role of J. Paull Getty. The allegations of sexual impropriety leveled at Spacey necessitated his replacement. Interestingly, director Ridley Scott says that Christopher Plummer was his original choice for the role; but he’d been pushed to cast a “bigger name.” More on the miracle that this replacement required later on.
In 1973, J. Paul Getty’s “favorite” grandson John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, who is not related to Christopher Plummer) was living in Italy. He was kidnapped on July 10, 1973 and taken to a remote mountain location in Calabria. One of his kidnappers, Cinquanta (Romain Duris) is kind to him. He’s also taken aback by the refusal of the boy’s grandfather to pay the demanded ransom of $17 million. After all, the grandfather has all the money in the world.”
Gail Harris (Michelle Williams – Oz, the Great and Powerful) has no money, thanks to a bargain she struck with the grandfather of her children to gain sole custody of them. She would gladly pay any price to secure her son’s release. But J. Paul Getty refuses to pay one dime to the kidnappers, let alone $17 million. Instead he dispatches one of his employees, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg – Lone Survivor). He’s ex-CIA and a dealmaker for Getty Sr. and his mission is to secure the release of J. Paul Getty III at the minimum possible expense.
Italy’s national police force, the Carabinieri gets involved in the search for the kidnappers but Fletcher Chase is the one in charge. Or at least he thinks so. Gail’s ex-husband, J. Paul Getty, Jr. (Andrew Buchan) is far too addled by his addictions to be involved in the process of saving his own son. So it is up to Gail and Fletcher to find a way to bring J. Paul III home.
This is a film that would have been an ordinary telling of what seems an extraordinary story, were it not for the performances of Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams. We may never see the work done by Kevin Spacey in the role, but what Plummer accomplishes in what turned out to be only nine days of filming is remarkable. Michelle William also delivers the good here throughout. Sadly, the talented Mark Wahlberg is horribly miscast. Timothy Hutton has a few brief moments as an attorney who puts the senior Getty’s Machiavellian machinations into effect. Ridley Scott uses backdrop and lighting quite well to show off the dark side of J. Paul Getty. The flashbacks showing the younger J. Paul III (Charlie Shotwell) are instructive and engaging.
As to the miracle mentioned previously, there are 22 scenes in this film involving J. Paul Getty and that means excising Kevin Spacey required reshooting all of them. Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams agreed to participate in the reshoots without compensation. It took only nine days of filming. Amazing!
As with most “based on a true story” films, dramatic license is taken. It should be noted that in the 1970s, kidnapping of the children of the wealthy was big business in Italy. An average of 30 victims per year were held hostage during that decade with a peak of 80 in 1975. How wealthy was the senior Getty at the time of the kidnapping? Estimates put his net worth somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. It is a major misnomer to call him the richest man in the history of the world, although he may have been the richest man of the moment.
As to how J. Paul Getty really felt about his “favorite” grandson, one might conclude that the answer could be found in his last will and testament. He left J. Paul III nothing.