Greg Eichelberger reviews 'All the Money in the World'

Greg Eichelberger
Staff Writer

At 3 a.m. on July 10, 1973, John Paul Getty III, 16, was kidnapped in the Piazza Farnese in Rome. He was blindfolded, transported, and imprisoned in a mountain hideout in the southern Italian region of Calabria.
A ransom note was received, demanding $17 million in exchange for his safe return. When that ransom message arrived, some family members suspected the kidnapping was merely a ploy by the rebellious youngster as he had frequently joked about staging his own kidnapping to extract money from his supposedly frugal grandfather.
All of this is duly noted (with some dramatic liberties) in Ridley Scott’s (“Alien: Covenant”) newest production, ”All the Money In the World.”
And while the performances of Michelle Williams (“Manchester By the Sea”) as John Paul’s never-surrender mother, Abigail, and Christopher Plummer (a Golden Globe winner for “Beginnings,” but best known as the Captain in “The Sound Of Music”) who filled in at the last-second for Kevin Spacey as the ruthless billionaire J.P. Getty.
Of course, I will not comment on how Hollywood, which tolerates just about ANYTHING, has stripped the multi-Oscar winner Spacey of his career after just one accusation, but that’s best left for another day and another column in the year of “Me Too,” so ...
Nevertheless, the film is both intense and intriguing and highlights an event which this critic remembers very well having read the reports as an inquisitive 12-year old that summer.
Five months later, after the original culprits “sold” the captive to a local crime syndicate, an envelope containing a lock of hair and a human ear was delivered to a daily newspaper with a threat of further mutilation of Paul, unless $3.2 million was paid.
“If we don't get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive,” one of the kidnappers (Romain Duris, “The New Girlfriend”) says. In other words, he will arrive in little bits.
There is certainly no holding back on this sequence and it will almost guarantee a hands-over-the-face response.
During this time, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg, “Daddy’s Home 2”), Getty, Sr.’s security head informs the old man that maybe the kid did NOT plan his abduction after all. He then begins aiding Abigail in her desperate cause.
She is not only fighting her son’s kidnappers, but also battling the tightwad billionaire, who even uses the custody of her other children to loan her drug-addicted ex-husband, J.P. Getty, Jr. (Andrew Buchan, ”Home Life”) some of the ransom money.
The old man finally negotiated a deal to get his grandson back for about $2.9 million, paying about $2.2 million — the maximum amount that was tax deductible — and he loaned the remainder to his son who was responsible for repaying the sum at 4 percent interest.
Long before the advent of Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon in 1949, Getty paid Ibn Saud $9.5 million in cash and $1 million a year for a 60-year concession to a tract of barren land near the border of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. No oil had ever been discovered there, but soon it would yeild millions of barrels making Getty one of the richest men in the world.
Yet, with all of those blessings, he had a reputation as one of the cheapest individuals of all-time and this is illustrated in the film by his presentation of a cheap Minotaur trinket to JP III (while telling him it was worth more than $1 million) and the installation of a pay telephone in his England mansion.
His conflict with his daughter-in-law came from the this declaration, ”If I pay their demands, have 14 other grandchildren who will become 14 KIDNAPPED grandchildren.
As for Williams, her desperate struggles translate into a wonderful performance as she doesn’t give up hope in getting her prodigal son back home. It’s a terrific, award-worthy accomplishment.
Grade: B