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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


Based on real events. When the teenager John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped in Rome in 1973, his mother Gail (Michelle Williams) desperately tries to convince the boy's billionaire oil magnate grandfather John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) to pay the $17 million ransom. But the miserly billionaire refuses, sending his security negotiator Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to deal with the matter instead.

Review by Louise Keller:
The heart of this top-drawer thriller about greed, family politics and dirty business lies in the lack of one in its central character, superbly portrayed by 87 year-old Christopher Plummer. Plummer, who replaced Kevin Spacey at the 11th hour following allegations of sexual abuse, is chilling as John Paul Getty, the world's richest man in the history of the world, who refuses point blank to pay the ransom for his kidnapped grandson. He toys with the world around him, seemingly making a point about the difference between 'getting rich' and 'being rich'. Plummer alone is good reason to see the film.

Director Ridley Scott effectively mirrors the apparent darkness in Getty's soul by the use of dim lighting and a claustrophobic mood, surrounded by priceless 'things' at his lavish Getty Estate. There is something creepy about the man, his priorities and the way he treats the people he perceives as parasites. Like Ebenezer Scrooge (whom Plummer played in the recent The Man Who Invented Christmas, 2017), the miserly Getty washes his own undies and incredibly has a red pay-phone box installed for guests. While he muses his 'things' never disappoint, in the final analysis, we perceive him as a tragic, lonely old man.

Based on a book by John Pearson, an adept screenplay by David Scarpa (The Last Castle, 2001), reveals that everything has a price as the sordid tale begins. It is in 1973 on the streets of Rome when cocky 16 year old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, The Dinner, 2017) is bundled into a van and taken as a hostage in Calabria. Plummer (no relation) is well cast as the traumatised teen who becomes the catalyst for a high profile family feud involving wealth and principles. The scene dealing with the teen's proof of life is not for the squeamish. French star Romain Duris (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, 2005) is gritty as Cinquanta, one of the terrorist kidnappers whose find himself in an ever-changing quagmire.

Michelle Williams is a chameleon that never fails to impress. Here she plays Gail, a strong, determined mother who offers Getty 'the greatest bargain he'll ever know' and is wily enough to learn how to play the game using her father-in-law's rules. Mark Wahlberg is solid as Getty's former CIA 'fix-it' man who makes deals and is the go-between between Gail and Getty. Watch for the scene when 1,000 copies of a newspaper participate in a ballet of sorts as they flutter in the breeze.

It's a great story with bizarre elements that play out in cat and mouse fashion through its locations in England, Italy and Jordan. The film looks stunning through cinematographer Dariusz Wolski's lens and I like the use of hallowed, choral music in the money counting scene. But ultimately, the film belongs to Christopher Plummer, whose portrayal makes the hairs on the back of our neck bristle.

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(US, 2017)

CAST: Christopher Plummer, Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton, Charlie Plummer

PRODUCER: Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis, Dan Friedkin, Mark Huffam, Ridley Scott, Bradley Thomas, Kevin J. Walsh

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

SCRIPT: David Scarpa (based on the book by John Pearson)


EDITOR: Claire Simpson

MUSIC: Daniel Pemberton


RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes



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