Film: "All The Money In The World"; Director: Ridley Scott; Cast: Christopher Plummer, Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg; Rating: ***
A breathlessness that has nothing to do with the film's two chief architects being over 80, defines the narrative momentum of "All The Money In The World", an uplifting, sometimes sickening saga of greed and lust for power and money, not necessarily in that order.
We all know how Christopher Plummer overnight replaced the disgraced Kevin Spacey in the role of J Paul Getty, the American billionaire known to be notoriously miserly even when his own grandson was kidnapped.
The morality tale sucks us into its vortex of avarice and retribution with such virile fluency that we never notice how deviously the narrative flirts with our sense of moral propriety. Is the film laughing at the twisted morality of 'billionaire-ship' when Getty refuses to pay up a hefty ransom to get his grandson back arguing that once he pays, all his other grandchildren's safety would compromised? Or is the narrative mocking the desperate anguish of the kidnapped boy's mother, played with ravishing restrain by Michelle Williams?
I would have looked a more confrontational screenplay pitching Plummer and his screen-bahu Williams. But we are denied the pleasure of high drama for something far more disturbing: a film that questions not limitless wealth but our judgment of the power and danger that such wealth brings.
Take it as you wish. But finally this is a film that pays a winking homage to the veteran Christopher Plummer's propensity to project moral ambivalence without letting his performance dither or wobble for even a second. Watching Plummer own every second of his playing time appropriated from Kevin Spacey, all we can say is, what a journey it has been from the sonorous "The Sound Of Music" to the vulgar sound of money.
Plummer's character and the way he shuns negotiation with the kidnappers, initially reminded me of Dilip Kumar in Ramesh Sippy's "Shakti" who had refused to negotiate with his little son's kidnappers.
That boy had grown up to be a smouldering Amitabh Bachchan. I can envisage a similar seething destiny for young Charlie Plummer if the film allows his character the luxury of a sequel.
Take a bow, Mr Plummer. And you too, Ridley Scott.
At 80, Scott directs this kidnapping tale with a swishing delight, hunting down the plot's moral centre without compromising on the quotient of fun that the characters have in getting here. Barring Mark Wahlberg whose role as a ransom negotiator remains, perhaps by its very definition, ill-defined every actor from the senior Plummer to the junior Plummer (Charlie who plays Getty's kidnapped grandson) seems to get the point that the plot makes about obscene wealth: it kills the conscience.
It can also kill your loved ones in more obvious ways.
Either way, Christopher Plummer's Getty remains unmoved. Wealth has deprived Getty of feeling real emotions. Plummer expresses the dryness of affluence.
"All The Money In The World" shows us how absolute power corrupts absolutely and often that power comes from limitless wealth.