Ridley Scott (director)
05 January 2018 (released)
04 January 2018
Based on the bestseller by John Pearson (who co-scripted with David Scarpa), Ridley Scott’s film tells the story of the kidnapping, negotiation and release of J Paul Getty’s grandson in 1973.
The first act splits between the kidnap, Getty senior building his empire and his reconciliation with his son. It’s necessarily bitty and although the film settles down to a coherent pace after that it does still have a feeling of being rushed and stapled together. That could well be down to the circumstances that surrounded the casting of Christopher Plummer and the hurried re-shoots, for reasons we need not dwell on.
It’s a sumptuous looking film as we are taken through JP Getty’s vast wood panelled country homes, gardens and offices with a devilish performance from Christopher Plummer. In his hands Getty is the master manipulator with few scruples even towards his direct family. His son John Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan) a useless wasted alcoholic becomes little more than a conduit by which he can take control of his grandchildren, for little more than spite, though he claims to love them.
There is no sympathy for any of them; that is all reserved for the 16-year-old kidnap victim John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and his mother, Gail (Michelle Williams).
Gail is determined to face him down eventually deploying his own methods against him, as she seeks the money for the ransom. Assisting her is Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) an ex-CIA fixer and Getty confidant. Williams is excellent carefully balancing the trauma of the kidnapping with the steely determination to deal with Getty and get her son back.
The kidnappers on the whole are portrayed as grubby chancers, dirty garments, unshaved messy beards. Apart from Cinquanta (Romain Duris) who tries to befriend the boy. It’s a well-worn trope which doesn’t add much other than try to distil the nastiness of the kidnapers though this is somewhat turned on its head when we get to the most notorious element of the case, which is not for the squeamish.
Drill down into this film and it is as much about greed, as it is about the kidnapping. The deals by Getty and the financial manipulations that he and his lawyers employed to keep his fortune intact, are cast against the crude base greed of the mob, the criminals and their methods. They are miles apart in execution but in many other ways so uncomfortably close.