All The Money in the World unveils its ransomed riches on Blu-ray .
The Production: 3.5/5
All The Money in the World is the latest solid effort from director Ridley Scott. In the simplest of terms, the movie covers the broad strokes of the true story of the 1973 kidnapping in Italy of the grandson of J. Paul Getty and how the Getty family responded. There’s a strong lead performance in Michelle Williams, who plays Gail Harris, the mother of the kidnapped young man (played by Charlie Plummer) and the daughter-in-law of the legendary Getty. There’s also a second strong performance here – from Christopher Plummer as the merciless and miserly Getty, which is effectively a second lead for the film. At the age of 89, Plummer effortlessly infuses the elderly Getty with a level of measured calculation and obliviousness that’s fascinating to watch. And the movie itself is a pretty compelling thriller, again the latest contribution from Ridley Scott and his team – they play a little fast and loose with some of the facts, but there’s a well-built story here, and a thoroughly effective presentation of it. There’s a lot more we can discuss about the true story of the Gettys and the true story of the film, but this summary is as much as I would want to give anyone who has not either read that story or seen the film.
SPOILERS: The actual true story of the Italian kidnapping of Getty’s grandson is actually a lot more complicated than what winds up onscreen here, and there are areas one wishes they’d covered a bit more. There’s a hint early on in the film that the Getty grandson was actually toying with staging his own kidnapping to get money from his notoriously tight grandfather – in reality, he was doing more than that. So when he was actually kidnapped by real Italian criminals (who had heard about his plan), it took a fair amount of time for anyone to take the kidnapping seriously. The elder Getty of course refused to pay the ransom the criminals demanded, coldly calculating that a payment would just encourage more kidnappings. The criminals responded by torturing the young Getty, including the notorious incident that people remember from this situation – they mailed a package to the Gettys that included the grandson’s severed ear and threats to do further damage if they didn’t receive a smaller ransom. The elder Getty finally consented to pay part of the ransom – up to the 2.2 million dollars he could deduct from his taxes (!!!) and an additional amount that he actually had the gall to loan his son under the condition that the loan be payed back at 4% interest. (Again, !!!!) After the grandson was recovered, months later, many of the kidnappers were apprehended, but the ransom was never returned. J. Paul Getty III actually never recovered from this ordeal, as writers of his life have documented a history of alcoholism and a major overdose in 1981 that left him permanently crippled. On the other hand, his grandfather got his way – nobody else tried to kidnap a Getty after this.
MORE SPOILERS: There’s a great story in the kidnapping – and it’s fairly clear that Ridley Scott was looking to find one in the contrast between the incredible wealth of the elder Getty and the earthier reality of the Italian kidnappers. If there’s a moral to Ridley Scott’s movie, it’s that all the money in the world can’t buy one a soul. To this end, Scott has had his team design the movie’s look and feel to emphasize the cold magnificence of the Getty estate, where J. Paul Getty is its effective King, while finding the humanity in Gail’s desperation to recover her son and even the humanity of some of the kidnappers, who clearly enjoy a richer life in their own way than the isolated grandfather does in the massive but empty corridors of his art-filled mansion. Scott finds his emphasis in the performances of a mostly top-level cast – particularly Williams and Plummer. Charlie Plummer also turns in an appropriately haunting performance as the grandson, who goes from a naïve perspective to something more doom-laden. (I note that he is no relation to Christopher Plummer, for anyone curious in that area.) Mark Wahlberg turns in a serviceable performance as the elder Getty’s fixer, Fletcher Chace – if anything, his role here is a great deal more restrained than what one would normally expect from Wahlberg, but he does find a couple of times to express his usual explosive temper. I would have wished for the movie to find more of the complexity in the story – particularly the irony in how the grandson’s kidnapping hoax played out, but that doesn’t mean that the movie doesn’t work on its own merits. It’s a solid effort from Ridley Scott, and a return to form for him after the frankly lackluster Alien: Covenant earlier in 2017. It’s interesting to note that Scott continues to make compelling films, even as he turns 80 years old. I would argue that his latter output has actually been more rewarding in many ways than that of Steven Spielberg in the current era. That being said, there are a couple of major pieces of information we need to discuss that neither the film nor this Blu-ray really address.
RESHOOT SPOILERS: The original production for this film actually had Kevin Spacey playing the elder Getty, under a mountain of prosthetic makeup. (The film’s original trailer, including Spacey, can still be found online – and it is instructive in its contrast to what was finally released.) After the film had been completed in post production and was slated for a November premiere, a major bombshell hit – Kevin Spacey was exposed for having a massive alleged history of sexual predation – something for which he issued a public apology of sorts before completely retreating from public view for the moment. This left Ridley Scott with a serious problem – release his movie as-is and hope that the Spacey fallout didn’t kill it, or try to reshoot his scenes with another actor, with barely any time left to get that done. Scott made what I see as a bold choice – he approached Christopher Plummer to take over the role, cancelled the November premiere and conducted about 9 days of reshoots. (The original Spacey shoot as Getty took 10 days, but Plummer didn’t need the hours of prosthetic makeup.) In most of the scenes, exact camera setups were duplicated from the original shoot, which also saved time, and the new footage was edited into the film for a December release. To my eye, the Christopher Plummer scenes are far more interesting to watch than the footage we have seen of Kevin Spacey essaying the same role. In the simplest terms, the heavy makeup on Spacey becomes wildly distracting in short order, while Plummer just settles into the same role without all the theatrics. As I see it, the change-up in the cast actually improved the film – something that has been confirmed by the various nominations received by the film and particularly by Christopher Plummer. But there’s an added twist – somewhere in the aftermath, an embarrassing truth about the reshoots came to light – while Michelle Williams participated in the reshoots, per her contract, for nothing more than her per diem, Mark Wahlberg’s agent (in the same agency as Williams) negotiated an additional 1.5 million dollars for him, since his contract did not include any reshoots. There’s a huge irony in this kind of thing happening in a movie about pettiness and largess. I’ve heard arguments that this was due to Wahlberg potentially having other conflicts, but the only actual conflict we know about was with Michelle Williams’ next film, which had to delay its schedule so she could return to this production at this time. After all the usual expressions of people being “shocked, shocked” to have this happen, Wahlberg tried to settle the matter by donating his additional fee to the Time’s Up fund. The fact of the reshoots happening is certainly addressed on the Blu-ray, but the crucial information is not. That’s not a surprise, but it’s hard to completely understand the situation without knowing the rest of the facts.
SPOILERS DONE: All The Money in the World was released on Blu-ray in April, with an edition that contains the movie in high definition picture and sound, but a surprisingly skimpy amount of extras – about 7 minutes of deleted scenes and under 30 minutes of featurette material. However, based on the solid quality of the film itself, I’m going to Recommend this title for purchase.
3D Rating: NA
All The Money in the World is presented in a 2:40:1 1080p AVC transfer (@ an average of 28 mbps) that shows off the usual exquisite technical artistry of Ridley Scott’s team. There’s plenty of period detail on display here – from the Italian vistas and costumes to the cold elegance of the Getty estate. There’s plenty of texture to be seen in the high definition transfer, and plenty of complexity in the lighting and camerawork throughout. If there is one place that the seams show a bit, it’s the desert flashback of Getty in Arabia, where there’s no mistaking the CGI work. But we should also keep in mind that this isn’t the fault of the transfer – the transfer just reflects that this is how the movie will look no matter how it’s presented.
All The Money in the World is presented in an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track (@ an average 2.4 mbps, ramping up to 3.2 mbps in the occasionally heavier scenes). Like the picture quality, the audio presentation is exquisite – dialogue is clear throughout and the score by Daniel Pemberton finds a voice throughout the channels. There are additional audio tracks – a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track, a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and DVS tracks in English and French.
Special Features: 2/5
All The Money in the World comes with surprisingly few bonus features, particularly for a Ridley Scott film. There’s nearly 7 minutes of deleted scenes and then three featurettes that collectively total less than a half hour of material. There isn’t even a commentary with Ridley Scott, which is a jaw-dropper in itself. We appear to be a world away from the days of the Charles de Lauzirika supplements here.
Deleted Scenes (6:52 Total, 1080p) – Eight deleted scenes are presented here, pretty much just including additional flavor in various scenes and additional moments that don’t advance the plot. A couple of the moments deal with the Italian postal strike that delayed the second ransom demand’s arrival. Another moment deals with Fletcher Chace having unfortunate car trouble.
Ridley Scott: Crafting a Historical Thriller (9:11, 1080p) – This is a surprisingly standard featurette, including the usual mutual compliments from everyone, between Ridley Scott, his cast and his production team – particularly costume designer Janty Yates, production designer Arthur Max and cameraman Dariusz Wolski.
Hostages to Fortune: The Cast (9:32, 1080p) – This featurette quickly goes through the cast members, with the various leads each having a moment to talk about their work and give the usual compliments to each other and to Ridley Scott. Christopher Plummer is included in this group. (Given that the footage comes from both the original shoot and the reshoots, one has to assume there was similar soundbite footage taken with Kevin Spacey…)
Recast, Reshot, Reclaimed (4:55, 1080p) – This short featurette gets into a little bit of the information about the November reshoot where Christopher Plummer was added to the production. Kevin Spacey’s name is never mentioned here, but there is a discussion of the producers not wanting “one man’s mistakes” to undo the production for everyone else. Mark Wahlberg opines that the reshoots actually allowed him to find new moments past what he had discovered during the original shoot. Some of the comments, including Christopher Plummer’s, are recycled from the earlier featurettes.
Digital Copy – Included in the packaging is an insert with instructions on how to obtain a digital copy of the movie.
The movie is subtitled in English, French and Spanish. The usual pop-up menus are present.
All The Money in the World is another solid entry from Ridley Scott, as he passes his 80th birthday. The movie itself is a bit simpler than one would like, but it’s still an enjoyable and satisfying drama, built from many of the details of the true story of the infamous Getty kidnapping in the 1970s. The movie is worth watching, not only for the artistry of Ridley Scott and his team, but for the performances of Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer. I wish the Blu-ray had included a more comprehensive set of special features than the skimpy materials it does have, but that’s not enough to override the quality of the film. On the strength of the film itself and its picture and audio presentation, this Blu-ray is Recommended for purchase.
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