Political Film Review #557

When Jay Bahadur (played by Evan Peters) wrote a term paper about the peaceful transfer of power in Somalia’s democracy, he was hoping for a career as a writer. But after being turned down by publishers on his first efforts, he unexpectedly ran into a famous journalist, Seymour Tolbin (Al Pacino), who encouraged him to become an investigative journalist. After an invitation from the son of Somalia’s prime minister, he flew to the country in 2008 (though filming is in South Africa) and was given a guided tour of the so-called terrorists in semiautonomous Puntland. His experience led him to write The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World (2011), which opened the eyes of the world to the fact that Somalia was not a “failed state” of jihadists but instead a country that merited diplomatic recognition. The Pirates of Somalia, directed by Bryan Buckley, tells of  experiences early in his career. But the depiction has two problems: One is that the English-speaking Somalians can scarcely be heard due to their accent , so their messages are difficult to discern without subtitles, something that director Ken Loach was forced to utilize to understand upcountry English and Scottish. The second element that may disturb some viewers is the punkish way in which Bahadur and Tolbin are portrayed. Nevertheless, the Political Film Society has nominated The Pirates of Somalia for best film exposé and best film on peace of 2017. MH

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