Having lived in Italy for two years I am immediately drawn to films shot there; and this one, by director Ridley Scott, was no exception. Add to that the intrigue of the story – based on fact – about a globally profiled Mafiosi kidnapping of a member of the richest family in the world, and this is a recipe for movie fairy dust in my eyes.
Scott re-tells the true story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III in 1973. Getty was the grandson of oil magnate J Paul Getty, the richest man in the world. He was also the man who stalled for five months before paying the ransom.
This story made headlines in 1973, but it made them again in 2017 even before the film was released because the actor who originally played J Paul Getty was Kevin Spacey, and accusations of his decades-long sexual misconduct surfaced not long after principal photography had wrapped. In light of the accusations, director Ridley Scott re-shot Kevin Spacey’s role, replacing him with Christopher Plummer. This is a pretty big deal in the film industry as the entire cast and crew had to be recalled.
After all the drama, the film has finally made it to the big screen with just 2-3 days’ delay and it’s had some mixed reviews. Some say that Plummer’s version of Getty isn’t as effective as Spacey’s would have been. That far from refusing to pay the ransom, his character seems like he could have been persuaded to give it up quite easily. I disagree, I thought Christopher Plummer was amazing in his role and that it snapped into place easily with the rest of the film. His Oscar nomination is well deserved and I can’t imagine what Kevin Spacey would have brought to that role that Plummer didn’t deliver – and more.
And he’s not the only one. There are some seriously good actors in this film. I particularly enjoyed the bold and fulsome performances of Mark Wahlberg and Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher), who played John Paul Getty III and Michelle Williams as his mother, Gail Harris. I actually don’t understand why Michelle didn’t get nominated for an Oscar as she carried most of the film. After her son is kidnapped she is the one working to sway Getty to pay the ransom as her son’s captors become more and more vicious, eventually cutting off his ear in a scene so gruesome (but probably nowhere near the reality 45 years ago) I wretched repeatedly in the cinema.
Mega-director Ridley Scott is evident everywhere in this movie. He has really captured the colour and confidence of this beautiful country but also its ugly side with the Mafiosi.
This is a tense thriller running against a clock mixed with a cautionary tale about the perils and penalties of vast wealth and some very dark humour. It’s stylishly done – as you would expect from Ridley Scott. You definitely won’t fall asleep during this one.