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Movie Night – ‘All the Money in the World’ based on actual kidnapping

By Bradley Griffith

It’s virtually unheard of that a movie replaces one of the main actors after the movie is completed.  It’s even more unusual that the substitute actor is chosen, scenes are re-shot, and the movie still opens in theaters on its original premiere date. Maybe the most amazing thing about this whole scenario is that “All the Money in the World” turned out to be a very good movie.

In Rome, Italy 16-year-old Paul Getty (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped. He was alone, walking the streets of Rome without a care in the world. What would he have to care about, he was the grandson of J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), founder of Getty Oil and the richest man in the world. Not only that, but J. Paul Getty was, at the time, the richest man the world had ever seen.

Paul was kidnapped for one reason only: money. The kidnappers called Paul’s mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), and demanded $17 million for the safe return of Paul. Gail informed them that she had no money. She had previously been married to Getty’s son, John Paul Getty, II (Andrew Buchan). In the divorce Gail asked for no money for herself. She only wanted full custody of the children and child support for them. She didn’t have millions of dollars to give.

When Gail told the kidnappers that she had no money their response was that she should ask her former father-in-law, he has all the money in the world. The kidnappers believed that Getty would pay handsomely and quickly for the return of his grandson who shared his name. They were wrong. Despite many desperate pleas from Gail, Getty refused to pay the $17 million ransom. When asked by a reporter how much he would pay, he replied “nothing.”

Instead, Getty sent Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), a Getty Oil negotiator and former CIA operative, to investigate the case and do whatever he could to ensure the release of young Paul. Fletcher and Gail must work together to get Paul back safely in spite of Getty.

“All the Money in the World” is based on the true story of Paul Getty’s kidnapping in Rome in 1973. I can’t say how much of the plot of the movie is true, but if even a small portion of the movie is accurate then J. Paul Getty was one of the meanest and most miserly men who ever lived. He refused to pay what was, for him, pocket change to secure the release of his grandson. He even had a special relationship with Paul that went as far as Paul being his favorite grandson.

Still, Getty refused. In fact, he even refused to meet with Gail to discuss the matter. He sent Fletcher Chase instead. The movie makes it seem that truly the only thing that Getty cared about was money. In the movie a reporter asks him if he is a billionaire and his response was that if you can count your money you are not a billionaire. He seemed to take pride in his greed and is portrayed as a truly despicable person, maybe even worse than the kidnappers.

Having said all that, Christopher Plummer was extraordinary as Getty. Only a truly special performance could cause such emotions about a character on a screen as you just read in the preceding two paragraphs. He was great at making you hate him and all he stood for. By all accounts Plummer himself is a wonderful person, which makes his performance even more astounding.

Perhaps the most surprising facet of “All the Money in the World” is that the entire movie was shot, edited, and completed with Kevin Spacey as Getty before many allegations of sexual misconduct were leveled against him. Director Ridley Scott made the decision to remove Spacey completely from the movie and reshoot all scenes that included Spacey. Not only did he pull off this feat beginning only one month before the film’s release, but I dare say that the movie is better for Plummer’s substitution.

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Grade: A-

Rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images, and brief drug content.