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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 29, 2018

All The Money In The World Movie Review: Director Ridley Scott's Engrossing Dramatization Of The Infamous Getty Kidnapping Case In 1973

IT’S SAD that “All the Money in the World” quickly left our theaters. It’s one of the best films shown last year and Ridley Scott (who’s best known for films like “Gladiator” and “Alien”) shows he knows how to make a truly engrossing drama based on true events.

The story is about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, who was 16 years old when he was kidnapped in Rome on July 10, 1973. This is the film’s opening scene, that seems to be a tribute to “La Dolce Vita” with the prostitutes in the Trevi Fountatin. His kidnappers demanded $17 million for Paul’s return. His grandfather, John Paul Getty, was then the richest man in the world and the kidnapping hit the headlines around the globe.

Paul III is the narrator of the movie himself and he tells us at the start of the movie how his grandfather became that rich because of all the oil he extracted from Saudi Arabia that became known as Getty Oil. The movie is based on the book “Painfully Rich: the Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty” by John Pearson and Scott did an excellent adaptation. The kidnapping incident was also shown in the TV series, “Trust” by Danny Boyle.

Scott’s version is presented as a kidnap thriller. Actually, you already know what will happen but it’s still very exciting to watch. The script is so well written in establishing the character of Getty Sr. and Christopher Plummer gives a masterful performance in the role of someone who’s clearly insane.

Despite having all the money in the world, he’s so stingy that he would easily eclipse Ebenezer Scrooge and Silas Marner, the iconic misers in literature who’ll look more generous compared to him. We’re not surprised that Plummer is nominated in the Oscars for he really gives an insightful portrayal.

To think he was just hired as replacement for the disgraced Kevin Spacey, the original choice for the part who was fired after cases of sexual misconduct was filed against him. All of Spacey’s shot footage were cut off then reshot with Plummer as Getty Sr. just one month before the film’s playdate.

But the heart of the film is actually Michelle Williams as the mother, Gail Harris, a middle class woman who separated from John Paul Jr. (Paul Buchan), the father of Paul III, because of his drug addiction. Actually, the movie would have been a short film if Getty Sr. quickly agreed to pay what the kidnappers are asking for. But he keeps on haggling to make the amount lower when he claims that Paul III is his special favorite among all his 14 grandchildren.

It’s quite obvious that all his accumulated riches as the world’s first billionaire has warped his mind. His being a cheapskate is actually repulsive in so many levels and Plummer captures all that and truly embodies the role convincingly on the big screen. Otherwise, how can he allow his favorite grandson to suffer in the hands of his captors (Paul III’s right ear was cut off and sent to his mother to prove that he’s still alive) for two months?

Williams nails it right when she is shown dealing with her annoying father in law, displaying astonishing restraint when we can also feel her seething anger and frustration. She’s superb in that scene where discovers the real worth of an ancient Egyptian artifact that Getty Sr. claimed to have a value of $1.2 million. The film’s last shot shows her staring at the bust of her now dead father in law, who believes he’s the reincarnation of Roman Emperor Hadrian, and it certainly speaks volumes. It’s just a pity that she’s ignored this time by the academy voters.

Giving good support is Charlie Plummer as Paul III (he’s not at all related to Christopher) and Mark Wahlberg as Getty Sr.’s business manager who works hand in hand with Gail in dealing with the kidnappers. Mark’s best scene is his reaction when Getty Sr. makes another obnoxious demand to Gail and he finally gives him a piece of his mind.

Obviously, a lot of liberties were taken in recounting the story on screen but all in all, it’s a satisfying dramatization of real events. The production design and cinematography captures the look and milieu of the 70s, with Getty III’s home often shrouded in darkness and the rural setting where Paul’s imprisoned in a remote location in Southern Italy clouded with the sadness of the fall season. And yes, the film once more underlines the truth that not all the money in the world can buy you true happiness and satisfcation in life.

Nine of the kidnsppers were eventually arrested. Most of the ransom was never recovered. In 1977, Paul III had a reconstruction of his ear that was cut off by his captors. A year after his kidnapping, he married a German girl and became a dad at 18. His son is Balthazar Getty, who became an actor. Paul III became a drug addict like his dad and he had an overdose in 1981 that left him a quadriplegic who can’t speak and was partially blind. He died in 2011 at the age of 54.