By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic

Atmospheric thriller from the great Ridley Scott and the perfect Getty – Christopher Plummer. Its his movie. He dominates it.

J. Paul Getty doesn’t even make the Top Ten richest people in history. That honorific goes to Mansa Musa (1280-1337). Musa was the King of Timbuktu.(1) He built his empire and enormous wealth on one thing – the production of gold.

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD is Ridley Scott’s beautifully executed, masterfully directed and wonderfully acted  “inspired by” telling of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, J. Paul Getty’s grandson. The 16-year old was kidnapped off a Rome street by Italian thugs. His multi-billionaire grandfather sensationally refused to pay the $17 million ransom.

J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) created a persona he enjoyed flaunting. He was the titan of sociopathy! Getty was intractably ruthless. He had all the traits of being a sociopath: Oversized ego, manipulative behavior, lack of empathy, lack of remorse or shame, staying eerily clam in dangerous situations, having few friends, being superfically charming, living by the pleasure principle and showing disregard for societal norms.

When Paul Getty III was kidnapped, his grandfather Getty was an old man, living a Versailles life without a court.

The Getty dynasty scandals continue. You can truly express who you really are if you have enough money. In 1999, San Francisco philanthropist Gordon Getty acknowledged that for 14 years he kept an “open” secret second family and was the father of three girls. The second family became public knowledge when the girls petitioned to legally use the last name of their father, “Getty.”

How ruthless was J. Paul Getty?(2)

Its 1975 and young Paul (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped off a street in Rome. The gang is led by Cinquanta (Romain Duris). He is brought to a cave that has been decked out as a prison cell. The gang believe that it would just be a few days for the patriarch Getty to pay. But Getty had 14 other grandchildren all over the world. Though he would not ever pay that kind of money for a family member, he offered two reasonable points to the public: Would he have to supply round-the-clock bodyguards for all of them? And, isn’t it the job of the police to handle solving this crime?

Getty finally receives Paul’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), who has three other children with Getty’s son, John Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan). At the time of the kidnapping, Getty II was a drug addict living in Morocco.

This is Gail’s story. Her story is not exactly well-examined. How was she paying the rent on that big Rome apartment? Through the movie, all she does is turn down money for alimony, living expenses and child care.

Getty employs a personal fixer, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg). Having worked for the C.I.A., Chase takes center-stage in finding the teenager. Gail treats Chase as an un-welcomed nuisance and interloper. She loathes anyone who has anything to do with her evil former father-in-law.

Getty’s disgust for fellow human beings expresses itself in overt ways. His maniacal buying of priceless artifacts feeds his belief that the public is not entitled to see them. Only he can appreciate art. He has raised ruthlessness to a fine art. Instead of being a painter or sculptor, he is an artist of money.

As the months drag on, Cinquanta forms a fondness for Paul and turns out to be a nice guy with feelings for the kid. Did this really happen? Scott takes us from the apartment of Gail to the cell of Paul. That the police could not find Paul for 5 months is rather startling. As the group of kidnappers and their families become hostages as well, they decide to sell Paul to an industrialist. This man, Mammoliti (Marco Leonardi), is J. Paul Getty’s match.

Mammoliti runs the numbers. It is time to make Getty pay.

It takes J. Paul Getty’s brilliant lawyers and Chase’s negotiations to finally whittle down the ransom demand. Finding a legal tax loophole, J. Paul Getty paid about the ransom. But the real facts show that Getty kept his ruthless principles.(3)

Two things outwitted Getty: Death and inheritance.

Scott shows he can deliver a nasty tale with a critical eye. Its hard to feature such a despicable person with no redeeming qualities and no justified reason (it would have helped if his parents abandoned him on a raft in winter without food or water to be found by a slaver). The screenplay by David Scarp is based on “Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty” by John Pearson.(4)

We are shown the beginnings of the Getty legacy and the family dynamics. Christopher Plummer, being the right age to play J. Paul Getty, is the consummate actor. Given such a short notice and not involved in the film from the beginning, he does a terrific job. Perhaps coming in so late and under the circumstances of replacing Kevin Spacey, brought a dimension of “outsider” and “loner” to his performance that was so much a part of Getty.

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society:

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at


(1) I spent several weeks traveling through Mali, finally ending up in the exotic and very fascinating city of Timbuktu. We were the only Western tourists. A year after our visit, in 2013 the  Islamic State (ISIS), following a decree of the Prophet Muhammad, set fire to the Ahmed Baba Institute library, destroying thousands of priceless historic manuscripts. Since then, U.S. citizens have been warned that there is a heightened risk of kidnapping of Westerners in Timbuktu.

(2) Getty’s fifth wife, Louise – known as Teddy Getty Gaston – published a memoir reporting how Getty had scolded her for spending money too freely in the 1950s on the treatment of their six-year-old son, Timmy, who’d become blind from a brain tumor. Timmy died at age 12, and Getty, living in England apart from his wife and son back in the U.S., did not attend the funeral. Teddy divorced him that year.

(3) The final negotiated figure was about $2.9 million. Getty Sr. paid $2.2 million – the maximum amount that was tax deductible – and he loaned the remainder to his son who was responsible for repaying the sum at 4% interest.

(4) After being freed, John Paul Getty III lived a “hippie” lifestyle. A year after his kidnapping, he married Martine Schmidt, age 24. His grandfather disinherited him for ­marrying so young and in time he became addicted to cocaine and heroin. In 1981, when Paul III was 25, he took an overdose of Valium, methadone, and alcohol cocktail which caused liver failure and a stoke, leaving him quadriplegic, partially blind and unable to speak. Confined to a wheelchair, he had to be spoon-fed and nursed around the clock. Paul’s own father – thoroughly rehabilitated and by then with a British title – Sir John Paul II, refused to pay his huge medical bills, saying he had to live with the consequences of his own drug-induced actions. Eventually, Paul III sued his father for $28,000 a month to cover his medical needs. Paul III was 54 years old at the time of his death. He had been paralyzed for 30 years.

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