Film “All the Money in the World”, written by David Scrapa, based on John Pearson’s book, and directed by Ridley Scott follows true story of kidnapping of 16 year old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) who is heir to the Getty fortune, and his mother Gail’s (Michelle Williams) desperate attempts to facilitate his release mostly by trying to convince his billionaire grandfather Getty Sr. (Christopher Plummer) to pay the ransom.
At the time of the kidnapping, Getty Sr. was the richest man in the world. He had managed to amass his vast fortune through some savvy investments in oil rich real estate, and through founding of his company, Getty Oil. His estimated fortune was about $1.2B ($9.05B in 2017) and at the time of his death, his fortune was estimated to be $6B (equivalent to $18.06B in 2017). The ransom demands for release of his grandson bearing his name was $17M, a fraction of his vast fortune.
Getty Sr. refused to meet the ransom demand and frustrated kidnappers reduced the demand to $3M. Grandpa Getty’s response was that were he to meet any demands of the kidnappers, his 14 other grandchildren could also be kidnapped. Getty’s humming and hawing to pay what was a miniscule amount for him, in order to procure the release of his grandson, forms the crux of the drama that unfolds.
As the kidnappers become increasingly unpredictable, Gail makes desperate attempts, with the help of her attorney, J. Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to get Getty Sr to release money for the kidnappers. Earlier, Gail had written off Getty money while divorcing her druggist husband, in order to keep custody of her three young children. Now one of her child’s life was hanging in the balance, and she has no resources to meet the demands.
Getty Senior appears to be incapable of empathy. Clearly it isn’t about his love of money or greed alone that explains his strange behavior. It is something deeper than greed. It is his lack of ability to relate with people on any level other than on a cognitive level. He feels more at home in his museum like palace among his collection of arts and artifacts, than with his family or any other people.
Senior Getty’s continuing refusal to part with what is for him tiniest amount of money, to save not just any life but life of his own grandson, while repugnant, is also fascinating. It gives a peek into the old man’s psyche that is powered by amassing wealth and artifacts, and from making good deals. In her role as Gail, Williams has beautifully shown tactical restraint in dealing with her father-in-law. It takes extreme suffering and agony of his family, before Getty is able to part with the smallest drop from his vast fortune.
Getty had also installed a pay phone in his palace to keep his staff and guests from using telephones in the palace. In real life, another similar instance (where a grandchild needed money) had also occurred. At the age of 99 (in 2013) Getty’s fifth wife published her memoir in which she mentioned how her husband had scolded her for spending money too freely in the 1950s on the treatment of their six year old son who had become blind from a brain tumor and later died at the age of 12. Such is the strong devotion to money for Getty Sr. Everything is a negotiation and presents a deal making opportunity and he refuses to acquiesce until the terms are right and pain and suffering don’t count..
It is a fascinating movie and on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.5