Ridley Scott’s down-to-the-wire gamble to replace Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in All the Money in the World has paid off, according to reviews of the upcoming film.
Critics largely praised the historical thriller as the reviews embargo lifted Tuesday afternoon, with Plummer’s supporting performance as real-life oil tycoon J. Paul Getty and Scott’s direction earning particularly strong notices. After news broke in October of Spacey’s alleged sexual misconduct, Scott quickly recast Plummer in the role of Getty, moving at breakneck pace to reshoot, edit, and present a Spacey-less cut of the film to journalists and awards voters within a few weeks’ time.
“Twilight years? Ridley Scott will hear none of it — he has just made the paciest, most dynamic film ever made by an 80-year-old director,” The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy writes in his glowing review. “And as for Christopher Plummer, he delivers the best screen performance ever given by an actor who, a month before the film’s debut, hadn’t even been cast yet. These two old pros show what they’re made of in All the Money in the World, a terrifically dexterous and detailed thriller about the Italian mob’s 1973 kidnapping for ransom of the grandson of the world’s richest man, John Paul Getty.”
The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw agrees, writing: “Plummer doesn’t look like a hasty replacement. He relishes and luxuriates in the role. It fits him perfectly. Getty is exactly right for Plummer’s talent for subversive glittery-eyed grandfatherly mischief, cut with a dash of misanthropic malice.”
Writing for The Telegraph, Robbie Collin, as, typical for a Scott production, the “film unfolds in a richly realised world and moves with an addictive, free-wheeling swagger,” while his “four main actors…. have all been astutely cast. He also compares the work of Michelle Williams, who plays the kidnapped Getty boy’s mother, to Audrey Hepburn thanks to her “weary Mid-Atlantic inflections.”
Not all reviewers were as kind, however. IndieWire‘s Eric Kohn takes particular issue with the film’s sometimes “obvious” and “rote” screenplay, which crafts “an occasionally gripping but disposable look at the perils of extreme wealth and high-stakes negotiations that — considering the $8 million Sony spent on the fly to stitch Plummer in — now plays like a metaphor for its own dash to the finish line.”
Tying the film’s themes to contemporary headlines, he finishes: “Ironically, the movie works best when Getty’s nowhere to be seen, a phantom responsible for a world that exists at the mercy of his whims. As we see global wealth mandating the priorities for some of our world’s most powerful leaders, All the Money in the World has a topical bite that transcends entertainment value.”
Read on for more reviews for All the Money in the World, which opens in theaters on Dec. 25.
Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Twilight years? Ridley Scott will hear none of it — he has just made the paciest, most dynamic film ever made by an 80-year-old director. And as for Christopher Plummer, he delivers the best screen performance ever given by an actor who, a month before the film’s debut, hadn’t even been cast yet. These two old pros show what they’re made of in All the Money in the World, a terrifically dexterous and detailed thriller about the Italian mob’s 1973 kidnapping for ransom of the grandson of the world’s richest man, John Paul Getty.”
Eric Kohn (IndieWire)
“Plummer is a world-class performer who endows Getty with a smarmy obstinance that aligns with the movie’s blunt storytelling. However, Plummer doesn’t dominate the movie, which largely involves his frantic daughter-in-law Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) and ex-CIA operative Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) struggling to negotiate for the missing boy’s release while the stingy Getty refuses to pay the ransom. The result is an occasionally gripping but disposable look at the perils of extreme wealth and high-stakes negotiations that — considering the $8 million Sony spent on the fly to stitch Plummer in — now plays like a metaphor for its own dash to the finish line.”
Robbie Collin (The Telegraph)
“First and foremost, the film confirms Christopher as the most reliable emergency Plummer in history. He is icily brilliant in the role, making Getty a cloistered empire-builder in the Ridley Scott tradition, alongside Gladiator’s Emperor Commodus, Blade Runner’s Eldon Tyrell and Alien: Covenant’s Peter Weyland. Like them, Getty is a man not drunk on power, but driven so stonily sober by its possibilities, he has come to see the workings of the world in a frosty new light…. The muscular screenplay by David Scarpa, adapted from a biography of Getty Sr by John Pearson, swan-dives right into the moral black hole that opens up when a human life becomes an asset to be cashed in or carved up at the discretion of investors.”
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
“Plummer doesn’t look like a hasty replacement. He relishes and luxuriates in the role. It fits him perfectly. Getty is exactly right for Plummer’s talent for subversive glittery-eyed grandfatherly mischief, cut with a dash of misanthropic malice.”
Ethan Sacks (New York Daily News)
“Plummer, oozing entitlement, is by far the best part of the movie. So much so it’s impossible to imagine Spacey doing as good a turn under mounds of his prosthetic makeup. Plummer’s scenes with co-star Michelle Williams — delivering another strong, understated performance — are worth the price of admission. But the rest of the film is not as worthy…. What does disappoint is the film’s detours straight into Hollywood clichés. The six-month case that captivated the world would have been good enough without a messy, over-the-top climactic chase. Mark Wahlberg plays an ex-CIA agent turned Getty fixer as a cerebral action hero straight out of central casting. And good luck being able to pick out any of the nondescript villains out of a lineup.”
Tim Grierson (Screen Daily)
“The muddled but icily engaging All The Money In The World is a thriller packed with ideas which director Ridley Scott only sporadically delineates with the same vividness as he does his stylish compositions. And yet, this true-life tale of the kidnapping of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty’s grandson maintains its hold, bluntly outlining how the desperate clamour for wealth poisons all those caught up in its frenzy.”
Rodrigo Perez (The Playlist)
“Much like Alien: Covenant, where Ridley exploited xenomorphs to pursue his own genuine interests — the harsh, ugly truths of what could happen if we meet our makers — the director uses the kidnapping narrative as the cover to mask his fixation with a miserly, inhuman man. All the Money In the World, isn’t really enjoyable or entertaining, but it’s gripping in its punitive portrayal of ruthlessness. But as distant and hardhearted as All the Money In the World is, as cynical and bitter as its aftertaste leaves, it boasts a tremendous, towering performance by Christopher Plummer as the monstrously self-interested and parsimonious Uber-Grinch; a repellent, irredeemable character. Plummer gives no quarter and Scott rarely, if ever, bothers to humanize him. Michelle Williams is also striking as the despairing mother living inside her own horror movie subplot.”
Ira Madison III (The Daily Beast)
“Just like the aforementioned soapy drama, Scott’s drama thrives on a female protagonist who goes up against an unbeatable foe through sheer determination of will. Scott is no stranger to directing a woman who blazes through a film like a force of nature and Williams’ Gail fits right alongside Ripley and Thelma and Louise in his filmography. It’s rare that Scott delves into the psyche of a woman—his films tend to be masculine affairs—but the juxtaposition of tenderness and ferocity in All the Money in the World makes it more than a mere thriller, it turns it into a caper that hooks your heart…. Scott has delivered his heroine an actor who’s worth her caliber. Plummer feels larger than life; he feels like the cold grip of the one-percent destroying even their family as they cling dearly to the wealth they’ve amassed for decades. When Williams first steps into the Getty mansion, that’s when the film truly begins. It’s only fitting that the final moment sees her back in that thunderdome, to give us one last lip quiver in a place she abhors yet is now intimately tied to—that’s the money shot.”