All the Money in the World

J. Paul Getty (played by Christopher Plummer) was one of the richest persons in world history. All the Money in the World, directed by previous Political Film Society nominee Ridley Scott, demonstrates how he got his fortune (by making the first deal with Saudi Arabia to extract oil from the desert), how he lived (on estates in London and Rome), and how he spent his money (on art). Among his wives, children, and grandchildren, his favorite was Paul III (Charlie Plummer). But one day in 1973 16-year-old Paul walks down a street in Rome and is kidnapped by the ‘Ndrangheta, relocated to somewhere in the boot of Italy, and ransom of $17 million is demanded. For several months, Getty refuses to pay; similar to American government policy, he does not want terrorists to be free to capture his other children. But the way he refuses serves to reveal an aspect of his personality that keeps the film going. Meanwhile, Paul’s mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), wants him freed. Gail does not have the funds to pay the ransom, having only asked for custody of Paul III in her divorce settlement with Getty’s son, so her aim is to get Getty to change his mind. But Getty decides to hire a onetime spy, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), who might be able to outsmart the criminals and then fails to do so. Despite many telephone calls, the Italian police are unable to trace the locations of the criminals. When they cut of one of Paul III’s ears, the stakes are raised. The film’s climax cannot be disclosed here but is found in Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty (1995), from which the film is adapted. As a biopic revealing details about Getty and the kidnapping incident, All the Money in the World qualifies for a nomination as best film exposé of 2017. MH