Ten days and 10 million dollars was all it took to make cinematic history.
Recasting parts during the production of a movie isn’t unheard of by any means, but completely starting from scratch after a picture is already locked never happens. Almost.
When sexual misconduct allegations came out against Kevin Spacey during post-production for the new film “All The Money In The World,” director Ridley Scott sprang into action. Recasting a pivotal role within 36 hours, Oscar winner Christopher Plummer stepped into the role of reclusive billionaire J. Paul Getty.
The final product – four-fifths of an original piece and 20 percent replaced with reworked material – is a testament to craftsmanship by an expert filmmaker, though it’s hard to still not imagine Spacey in the role despite him not being on screen.
“All The Money In The World” examines the kidnapping of then-16-year-old John Paul Getty III, grandson of the illustrious original Getty, and the subsequent search to bring him home safely alive led by the boy’s mother and a former CIA operative.
Despite a star-studded cast, the standout performance of “All The Money In The World” comes from young breakout Charlie Plummer. Ironically, the actor playing kidnap victim Getty III has no familial connection to the elder Plummer who stars as his grandfather.
Kidnap victims are often portrayed on television and cinema very one-dimensionally, but Plummer layers the youngest Getty with a complex, nuanced performance deeply seeded in mistrust and a moderate case of Stockholm Syndrome. Watching Plummer transform emotionally over the course of the movie is surprisingly the most interesting part of Scott’s film and may be due in part to the fact that almost none of the scenes involving the younger Getty had to be reshot.
The elder Plummer’s performance will ultimately be more heavily scrutinized because of the casting change. However, his stoic, searing turn as the seemingly soulless grandfather is just as mesmerizing on screen and nearly beyond reproach.
It’s remarkable to think that any actor could so wholly inhabit a character as quickly as Plummer does. His Getty is a man that audiences will love to hate and yet cannot get enough of.
Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams carries the film’s emotional weight in a somewhat more one-dimensional performance. Her turn as the kidnap victim’s mother is gripping, but mired in a stilted accent and muddled in sobs, there’s little room for depth of character.
As the former CIA operative tasked by Getty to find his grandson, Mark Wahlberg is his usual solid yet unspectacular self, trying to bring a calm sense of purpose to the film and drive the plot forward.
Filming, cutting and reshooting his movie on the fly, it must have been incredibly difficult for Scott to maintain a consistent tone throughout “All The Money In The World.” What finally arrives in theaters is a cold, morose movie that drags like a European spy film and could probably be shortened by around 20 minutes.
It’s incredibly vibrant visually, layered in a bluish-gray cinematic hue that evokes the early 1970s period the film is set in. Though the film is not picturesque in every scene, Scott and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski give “All The Money In The World” a richness that enhances the performances on screen.
Though few had seen the film to that point, “All The Money In The World” earned a trio of Golden Globe nominations, including best picture drama and acting nods for Plummer and Williams. The film’s Oscar hopes are bleaker, however, with only Christopher Plummer a potential contender for recognition come awards season.
There are times that “All The Money In The World” feels like a grind to get through. But patient audiences will be rewarded with an interesting, complex look at the convergence of familial strife, economic greed and international crime worth taking a chance on whether in theaters now or at home in a couple months.