All The Money In The World

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+All The Money In The World

Directed by:  Ridley Scott

 Written by:  David Scarpa based on the book by John Pearson          

Produced by: Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Quentin Curtis, Chris Clark, Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam and Kevin J. Walsh

Starring Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer and Mark Wahlberg. 

When a movie such as this is labelled ‘Inspired by True Events’ I can’t stop my mind constantly evaluating which of the events portrayed are true and which are pure speculation.

In this case the basic facts are that Jean Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) is an American-born British industrialist who negotiated a series of lucrative oil leases with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and was declared the richest American in 1957.

On 10th July 1973, Paul, his grandson, (Charlie Plummer- no relation), then age 16, was kidnapped off the streets of Rome. Paul’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) spends the rest of the film negotiating with a grandfather reluctant to pay the demanded ransom.

The film is based on a book on the Gettys written by John Pearson and this adaption from book to film does cause some narrative problems.

Although the kidnapping occurs very early in the film, a series of flashbacks quickly follow in succession, each dated to supply the necessary biographical information about the family’s background. I found this constant interruption of the main narrative quite disconcerting.

This is a film that moves slowly despite the potential for drama of a kidnapping. The tension is muted, crisscrossing between scenes of Paul and the kidnappers and his mother’s increasingly frustrated attempts to convince his grandfather to ‘pay up.’ It is only in the last half hour that the adrenalin really starts pumping.

Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams give solid if somewhat pallid performances with Williams reprising the mood of her role as Alma, wife of Ennis Del Mar, in Brokeback Mountain – all stoic endurance.

Surprisingly, moments of emotion are few and far between and unexpectedly more often between the young Paul and Cinquanta, one of the Calabrian captors (played convincingly by Romain Duris), who does what he can to make the captivity endurable.

What intrigued David Scarpa, the scriptwriter, about the story were the psychological aspects, how “the obstacle wasn’t paying the ransom and rescuing his grandson – the obstacle was psychological, he just couldn’t bear to part with his money.”

This is a visually beautiful film from Dariusz Wolski, (Director of Photography) renowned for each of the first four films in the record-breaking Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

The Italian landscapes fairly hum with an erotic energy and the lush interiors of the Getty mansions with their shadowy corners and opulent décor are more like scenes captured from the Old Masters that hang on the Getty walls.

The film however, exists in the shadow of that space where art and life often collide. Originally, Kevin Spacey, transformed by elaborate make-up and prosthetics, played the iconic tycoon. But when many men came forward alleging that the actor had sexually abused them, Christopher Plummer was hastily signed on as the replacement.

Many scenes had to be re-shot and interestingly Michelle Williams re-shot all her scenes with Plummer, refusing to accept recompense in solidarity with all those who had allegedly been abused by show business luminaries.

Perhaps this unfortunate interruption of reality goes part way to explain some of the film’s deficiencies and its rushed feeling. Sometimes the action verges on melodrama, especially in the several scenes where paparazzi on steroids surge like locusts around the Getty entourage or the one thousand newspapers delivered by Gail to Getty senior to capture his attention, swirl about him like snow. Nothing subtle here.

In the end Getty senior is a somewhat clichéd portrayal, the lonely old rich tycoon without no attempt to understand the causes of his rigid personality. There’s a deeper story here somewhere but unfortunately it’s tricky to find, much like the Getty ransom.

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American Made

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+American Made

Directed by: Doug Liman

Writer: Gary Spinelli

Produced by: Brian Grazer, Brian Oliver, TylerThompson, Doug Davison, Kim Roth

Executive Producer: Ray Angelic

Starring:  Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Roger Mitchell, Jesse Plemons, Lola Kirke, Alejandro Edda, Benito Martinez, Caleb Landry Jones, Jayma Mays.

When a film is promoted as ‘based on a true story’, I’m always curious to know which parts are factual and which take more creative options.

This was the question lingering at the back of my mind as I watched American Made, the story of Barry Seal, a TWA pilot, recruited by the CIA to fly reconnaissance over the camps of communist rebels in South America in the 1970s. In Universal Pictures’ American Made, Tom Cruise reunites with his Edge of Tomorrow director, Doug Liman.

Barry, played by Tom Cruise, establishes his ‘devil-may-care’ attitude in the movie’s opening scene when he tries to liven up his own TWA flights occasionally by turning off the auto-pilot and giving the passengers a quick bouncy thrill.

Barry’s entrepreneurial skills also include picking up black market cigars on his South American stopovers and soon CIA agent Monty Schafer (played by Domhnall Gleeson) makes an offer that Barry just can’t refuse.

Very quickly Barry’s taking more than holiday snaps as he flies low over Communist guerrilla camps in Nicaragua. He’s a natural adventurer and next he comes onto the radar of the Medellin drugs cartel, an organized network of drug suppliers and smugglers originating in the city of Medellin, Colombia.American Made

Barry’s task is to pick up drugs in Colombia and drop them off to contacts in America so when he is eventually nabbed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), he does a deal that sees him further recruited to deliver arms to the Contra rebels who are fighting for the overthrow of the Sandinista left-wing government in 1979 in Nicaragua.

Yes this sure is a bumpy ride and viewers need to hold onto their seats lest they get lost in the dramatic twists and turns of Barry’s story.

There’s not a lot of acting required here.

Cruise as Barry, whose moniker became ‘the gringo who just gets things done’,  roller-coasters through the action despite a slightly puzzled look on his face.

Sarah Wright as Lucy, his wife, plays the role of a pregnant, frazzled mother one minute and next the good-time party girl when the dollars start rolling in.

Domhnall Gleeson, as the CIA agent, is really just the stereotypical, emotionless cog in a well-oiled machine.American Made

However, the surprise for me was Caleb Landry Jones, playing ‘Bubba’, Seal’s brother-in-law. He was outstandingly creepy in the recent excellent thriller, Get Out. Here his character displays a truly believable feeling of pathos, with albeit, just a little bit of creepiness too.

This movie is billed as comedy and plays for laughs and even occasionally morphs into Keystone Cop routines, choosing to pay no attention to the hidden but real human casualties of the drugs cartel and of the arms Contra deal. The USA-supported Contras were later accused of widespread kidnapping, torture, murder and rape of civilians.

However, in the end it’s difficult not to be swept along, as Barry obviously was, by the movie’s excitement and adrenalin rush and to leave these more serious questions for another time.

The 1970s – 80s look of the film is totally convincing in music, costume and style – there’s a sort of brown and orange haze that reminded me of an Australian 1970s beach house.

And despite his tragic end, Barry obviously made the most of it all so why, I suppose, shouldn’t we?

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