Normally, I do all that I can to review a movie on its own merits. I simply judge what unfolds on the big screen: script, performances, music and special effects.

But there’s a little more to “All the Money in the World” than what greets the audience’s eyes and ears.

Yes, this is That Movie, the one that previously starred Kevin Spacey, who has been accused of sexual misconduct. Netflix suspended the production of the final season of the “House of Cards” series after the accusations.

In this movie, Spacey had one of the principle leads as billionaire J. Paul Getty. Much of the film was re-shot, right before it was scheduled to be released, with Christopher Plummer cast in the role.

Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott and the other actors – including Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg – had to recreate their scenes in what must have been record time. And that they all did this so seamlessly is one of the attractions of the film.

The story is set in 1973, when J. Paul Getty III, the teen-age grandson of the older Getty, the richest man in the world, is kidnapped for ransom in Rome.

The young Getty’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) doesn’t have the millions that the kidnappers requested. She divorced the kidnapped teenager’s father years previously, and has none of the Getty wealth. The kidnappers suggest that she turn to her ex-father-in-law (Plummer) for the ransom.

But the older Getty, 80, doesn’t want to pay the ransom. If he does that, he reasons, other criminals will go after his money, too. He’s too busy making millions, laundering his own shirts and wondering what money angle each person he meets is harboring to spend too much time considering how he can help his grandson who may, according to the kidnappers, be returned to his family one piece at a time.

Williams, as always, does a commendable job portraying the frantic mother who simply finds herself unable to appeal to the older Getty’s heart.

Wahlberg is Fletcher Chase, a former CIA operative, whom the older Getty assigns to the case.

It’s Plummer who owns the movie as a real-life Scrooge who is owned, and addicted to, making even more money than he already has. Plummer, with subtle gestures and inflections, provides viewers insight into his character and his motivation.

The script generally is true-to-life, but some of actual incidents have been enhanced or deleted, while others were invented, most likely to make the film more of a thriller.

The movie is a great ensemble work about fascinating and sometimes horrifying family dynamics. It’s not the feel-good film of the year, but it’s always interesting.


Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Broadcast Film Critics Association member. College instructor for criminal justice, English and math. Serves on Safer Foundation and The Salvation Army advisory boards. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church