Trapped between monsters in Getty kidnapping

Michelle Williams stars as the mother of John Paul Getty III, pleading her billionaire former father- in-law for help when the boy is kidnapped in All The Money In The World.
Michelle Williams stars as the mother of John Paul Getty III, pleading her billionaire former father- in-law for help when the boy is kidnapped in All The Money In The World. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

REVIEW / BIOPIC DRAMA

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD (NC16)

132 minutes/Opens today/ 2.5 stars

The story: Inspired by the true story of a crime that grabbed headlines in 1973, John Paul Getty III is living in Rome when men in a van abduct him, demanding US$17 million for his release. He is, after all, the grandson of oilman J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), the richest man in the world. But his mother Gail (Michelle Williams), divorced from the tycoon's son, has no money of her own and must turn to her former father-in-law. To her shock, he refuses to pay a sum that, to a man like him, is a trivial amount.

The Getty kidnapping was just one of several acts of terror that marked the turbulent 1970s, but what made it memorable was that it involved one of the most recognisable surnames on the planet.

And John Paul Getty III's ear, sent to a newspaper as proof of the kidnappers' penchant for violence, lent a personal, gory touch to a crime that had seemed to be about rich people's problems.

Director Ridley Scott includes that de-earing scene, of course, approaching it with the same finely honed horror sensibility seen in films such as the Alien franchise.

In fact, the rest of the film unfolds with the same mood of impending doom as that on a spaceship in trouble.

The hermetic environment in this case is the world of J. Paul Getty (Plummer, who had to be inserted in reshoots after original actor Kevin Spacey's sexual misconduct charges came to light last year).

The old man is as trapped by his priceless art collection as his grandson is by the kidnappers, the story implies, and Gail (Williams) is a woman trying to pierce his sanctum to reach his humanity.

Williams is wonderful as the relatable heart of the story, a "normal" person trapped between monsters - the billionaire on one side and the Italian criminals on the other.

Where the story falters is in its crime-thriller elements - the Italian crooks come off as faintly ridiculous and never come to life and Mark Wahlberg's fixer character, Fletcher Chase, is superfluous and feels jammed into the story to provide a musclebound foil to Williams' femininity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'Trapped between monsters in Getty kidnapping'. Print Edition | Subscribe