All the Money in the World.

All the Money

Based on a true story that feels eerily fresh, this highly strung procedural may not hit the jackpot, but it does pay off.

J. Paul Getty was the richest man in the history of the world. He loved his power, he loved manipulating people. While he may have professed love for his family, he, at least in what we see here, sure didn’t treat them as if he did. Lies grew to exclusion, doors so firmly shut that even when his allegedly adored grandson was kidnapped in Italy, Grandpa wouldn’t put up the ransom. Or at least would only cough up what his team discovered he could write off his taxes.

This story is told as both a crime thriller and a family drama. Ridley Scott knows very well how to tell both. But, after having excised Kevin Spacey, who originally played Getty, from the film mere weeks before opening, this movie also works as something else: a remarkable re-shoot that might very well impact filmmaking and its future.

Honestly, how did they do it? Getty, now exquisitely embodied by Christopher Plummer, is in most of the film. Filming scenes all over again required not just having him around so computers could play magic, co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams had to return to the set, money to the reported tune of $10 million dollars, was spent on the re-shoots, editing and revamping of the PR campaign.

It all works amazingly well, even if I couldn’t help but notice a physical similarlity between the actors playing Getty’s son and Grandson to Spacey, which is somewhat haunting. But if you walked in fresh, not knowing the sturm and drang behind the scenes, you’d never suspect a thing. Seeing what they see here, some producers might wonder if tighter reins might work on other projects, too. For the record, Williams’ crisp performance, which I’m sure was just as measured when she played the scenes with her first co-star, stands effectively. Wahlberg, in an underwritten role of a security chief, does the best he can.

Perhaps the most emotionally impactful element of this re-telling is how it feels today. We watch as a richer than rich man tosses around the word love but acts anything but loving. We see his real modus operandi is not paying taxes. He funnels his quest for power through acquiring objects. And he feels good about it. Sound familiar?