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Film / All the Money in the World

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"Everyone wants a cut."
"I have 14 grandchildren, and if I pay a penny of ransom, I'll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren."
J. Paul Getty

All the Money in the World is a 2017 thriller directed by Ridley Scott starring Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg and Christopher Plummer.

In 1973, 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped by Calabrian gangsters and held for ransom for $17 million. His grandfather, J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer, no relation), is an oil tycoon, the richest man in the world…and an infamous miser. When Getty refuses to pay the ransom, his daughter-in-law, Gail (Williams), has to work with Getty’s head of security, Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg) to find some other way to free Paul.

The movie gained a special notoriety when Kevin Spacey, who had originally been cast to play the octogenarian Getty under a pile of makeup, was accused of sexual misconduct by several men including Anthony Rapp, after the movie was completed and only a few months before its release. With the looming threat of a boycott and a Box Office Bomb, the studio agreed to Scott's proposal to replace Spacey with Plummer and reshoot the 22 scenes he was in in a couple of weeks. This was accomplished one day before the deadline. As a result, the movie came out less than a week after its projected release. For his work, Plummer received a Academy Award nomination for Supporting Actor, believed to be the shortest turnover between an actor filming a role and being nominated for it — it would also be the actor's last nomination prior to his death in 2021.

Tropes associated with All the Money in the World include:

  • And Starring: Both Spacey and Plummer got the "and... as J. Paul Getty" in their respective trailer.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • In the movie, J. Paul Getty dies of a stroke on the night his grandson is released. The real Getty died of heart failure several years later and disinherited his grandson for marrying before he was 22 years of age.
    • The real Paul was rescued by an Italian trucker not far from the dropoff site, but that would deprive the movie of a climax.
    • The instructions given to Gail to retrieve Paul in the film are actually the instructions the kidnappers gave to meet her early in the kidnapping scheme, and she did not follow them.
    • Paul didn't see any of his kidnappers' faces.
    • Paul's escape attempt and eventual reabduction by a Dirty Cop is fictional.
    • The trauma of the removal of Paul's ear was actually inverted in real life. In the film, Paul is held down, kicking and screaming, while a doctor slowly and painfully cuts his ear off, then he lies quietly and winces slightly as the wound is disinfected. In reality, Paul said that the ear was cut off suddenly and unexpectedly. He did not feel pain until the kidnappers attempted to treat the wound, which would not stop bleeding and was exacerbated by his allergy to penicillin.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: In an interview J. Paul Getty says that you can't really consider yourself a billionaire until you have no idea how much money you actually have.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Midway through the film, Getty arrives at a meeting with a foreign man with a Briefcase Full of Money to negotiate the sale of something with another ominous foreign man. It seems like he's finally agreed to pay Paul's ransom, but he's actually there to buy a painting in the black market.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: When Paul accidentally sees a kidnapper’s face, the kidnapper raises a gun to his head – and we cut away to the sound of a gunshot. It turns out that the kidnapper, and not Paul, was shot by another person.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Paul intended to fake his kidnapping before he was kidnapped for real.
  • Big Fancy House: Many of J. Paul Getty’s scenes take place in Sutton Place, his 16th-century Tudor estate. It is filled with expensive art.
  • Bystander Syndrome: At the climax, Paul asks several strangers in a small Italian town for help, only to be refused every time. One baker tells him they “can’t get involved.”
  • Car Fu: Fletcher had to do a little of this in order to deal with the paparazzi. Truth in Television, though. If you're swayed from driving because a photographer is laying on your car you're not going to go anywhere.
  • Deal with the Devil: J. Paul Getty does offer to pay Paul’s ransom…if Gail will give her ex-husband full custody of their children. Since the ex-husband is a strung-out drug addict, this effectively means giving J. Paul Getty control over his grandchildren.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Ironically, early promoting material banked on Spacey's popularity and centered on Getty, who is only a secondary villain. After the PR disaster became evident, any mention of Spacey was removed (and he was eventually recast) while Williams and Wahlberg were pushed to the front. The trope still applies since Wahlberg was given top billing and the biggest paycheck, but the main characters are actually Gail (Williams) and Paul (Charlie Plummer).
  • Dirty Communists: The police suspects involvement by the Brigate Rosse early on, and Chace finds that Paul actually negotiated staging his kidnapping with them. Chace almost references the trope's name when one spray paints his car to arrange a meeting.
  • Downer Ending: Not in the movie, but in the aftermath of the events in real life. John Paul Getty III was never able to get over the traumatic experience; in 1981 he suffered a drug overdose which left him severely disabled until his death in 2011 at the age 54.
  • Dying Alone: J. Paul Getty dies alone, clinging to a painting of the Madonna and Child.
  • Ear Ache: As in real life, the kidnappers cut off Paul’s ear, hoping that the mutilation will convince his family to pay the ransom.
  • Enfant Terrible: Why everyone is skeptical about the kidnapping at first. Paul does drugs, sees prostitutes, and was expelled from high school for causing a fire. And it turns out that he wanted to fake his kidnapping to extort money from his grandfather before he was kidnapped for real, causing Getty’s hesitancy to pay the ransom.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Cinquanta is dismayed by the idea of a grandfather refusing to pay one day worth of his daily gains for the safety of his grandson.
  • Finger in the Mail: A secretary receives Paul’s ear in the mail.
  • Foreshadowing: Paul was expelled from high school for causing a fire. He does it again but to distract his captors and escape his captivity.
  • From Bad to Worse: Fearing they will never get the ransom, the original kidnappers "sell" Paul to a mafioso who is not above maiming or killing him.
  • Heal It with Booze: Before a doctor cuts off Paul’s ear, Cinquanta urges Paul to drink some alcohol.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
    • Fletcher Chace was a lot more incompetent in real life than in the movie. Besides believing that the kidnapping had been staged by Paul at first, he was also distracted by a relationship with an Italian woman he began during the case, lost $3,000 pursuing a false lead, and at one point freaked out and sent Gail and her other children to London for their safety when it wasn't really needed. The man who reportedly convinced Getty to finally pay the whole ransom was Gail's father, not Chace.
    • Cinquanta actively helping Paul escape the mob's clutches on two occasions is made up for the film.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade:
    • Getty agreeing to give Gail the whole ransom in the end. In real life, he loaned the non-deductible part to Paul's father at 4% interest per year. The final cut also excludes any mention of Getty's womanizing - he divorced 5 times and there were two women living in his property at the time of his death. However, the first trailer shows that Spacey shot scenes with the latter.
    • The mafiosi did not use chloroform or employ an actual doctor to remove Paul's ear. They just gave him brandy and a rag to chew on and cut it themselves. The movie doesn't show them beating Paul early in his captivity, either.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The movie implies that John Paul Getty Jr. was not involved in the hostage negotiations except to serve as a silent pawn in his father's attempt to gain the children's custody from Gail. In real life, he also tried to convince Getty, but he refused to talk to Getty in person because of an earlier feud with him.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: The hookers in the beginning lose any interest in Paul when they learn he is underage and advise him to go home before worrying his mother.
  • Hypocritical Humor: One of the earliest leads Fletcher explores is a local Russian-affiliated communist cell. They admit to having discussed an arranged kidnapping with Paul but affirmed they did not actually do it. Fletcher comments that for communists they seem oddly obsessed with money, and they reply that everyone wants money, they just don't like who is in control of it.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Getty passes over his son and gives his fortune to his grandchildren in the form of a trust administered by Gail until they come of age.
  • Irony: Getty shells out $1.5 million in cash to buy a painting of a child while the life of his own grandson hangs in the balance over his refusal to pay the ransom.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Kind of. Although J. Paul Getty is obviously a tightwad who goes way too far with his greed and avarice, he does make a few points that are not inherently wrong. He does point out that if he paid the ransom without any question, that this would put his other grandchildren at risk of other kidnappers, not an invalid concern. Also, near the beginning, when someone writes him a letter asking him to pay for her husband's surgery, he points out that it would be impossible to respond to every single request that people send him for money. However, this is mitigated by the fact that he's merely hiding behind these points, making excuses for his inaction, rather than because he finds these arguments have any merit. Also by the fact he has no qualms about spending a lot of money for art and expensive villas.
  • Lima Syndrome: Cinquanta develops sympathy for Paul after talking with him outside his cell when first kidnapped, and makes an effort to keep him largely unharmed when other conspirators don't have the same impulse. He persuades the other kidnappers to cut off Paul’s ear (rather than a foot) and, at the climax, prevents a co-conspirator from killing Paul. It's implied, albeit silently, that Cinquanta knew Paul was attempting to escape and was purposely turning a blind eye to give him a shot at it. He also advises him to ignore orders and not wait around after he's dropped at the exchange spot, and this advice likely saves his life.
  • Lonely at the Top: Driven by obsessive ambition, J. Paul becomes the richest man in the world – but alienates his family along the way. He lives in a huge mansion alone.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Getty misleads Gail into believing that he has discovered that all the ransom's money is tax-deductible, and extorts her into surrendering custody of her children in exchange for the ransom money that is actually tax-deductible, which is only 1/4 of the sum demanded.
    • After Getty's death, Gail learns that a large part of his fortune was invested in a charity fund. When she asks if he ever donated anything to charity, she is told he never did.
  • MacGyvering: Showing some ingenuity, Paul makes an escape attempt by rigging up a blow-dart-type device to send a small flame into a dry grass field outside his window, giving him a distraction to break down the door and run.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Once the word got out that Paul was kidnapped, local police had to field dozens of different people claiming to be the ones responsible.
  • No Name Given: The 'Ndragheta who buy Paul are never named, save for their leader, Saverio Mammoliti (who even then is mostly referred to by his real-life nickname, Saro), and his right-hand man Sgrò. Didn't stop members of the Mammoliti clan who kidnapped the real Paul from crying misrepresentation.
  • Paparazzi: Many pester Gail after her son is kidnapped.
  • Police Are Useless: The Calabrian mafioso has the local police in his pocket. It takes the gendarmerie (Carabinieri) to rescue Paul.
  • Present-Day Past: A minor example, the ransom numbers given in the film are modern calculations based on inflation rather than what it really was back in the 70's.
  • Red Herring: Early on in the movie, a young Paul is given a priceless, million dollar Minotaur statuette by his grandfather. Years later and months into the kidnapping, desperate to get any sort of money to bargain with, Gail recalls the statuette and digs it out of a shoebox in Paul's bedroom... Only to learn that it's actually a piece of junk sold in the museum's gift shop where the actual minotaur is housed.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Fletcher Chace delivers one to Getty as he resigns, and this is what causes him to decide to finally pay the ransom as well as drop the pursuit of what was effectively custody rights of Gail's children.
  • The Scrooge: J. Paul Getty is the wealthiest man in the history of the world, but also infamously tightfisted. Besides refusing to pay his grandson’s ransom, he also washes his clothes by hand (instead of paying for a laundering service) and makes his houseguests use a coin-operated pay phone.note 
  • Shout-Out:
  • Skewed Priorities: Getty is more willing to pay top dollar for a painting he desires than for a kidnapped member of his family.
  • Smart People Play Chess: There is a scene where J. Paul Getty plays chess against himself.
  • Tempting Fate: Paul saying he can take care of himself, right before being abducted.
  • The Mafia: The Calabrian 'Ndrangheta actually. Low level robbers and extortionists kidnap Paul first, then sell him to a bigger mafioso who also makes counterfeit handbags.
  • Thwarted Escape: Paul manages to set fire to a field to distract his captors, break out of his cell, hitch a ride to the nearest town, reach a police station, and call his mother – only for his kidnappers to re-capture him at the station.
  • Title Drop: By Cinquanta, when asking Gail for the ransom. Again by Chace in his resignation.
  • Token Good Team Mate: Cinquanta takes a weird protective role over Paul and saves his life more than once.
  • Tragic Villain: J. Paul Getty amazingly comes across as one. For all his greed and selfishness, he does seem to have genuine trouble in forming connections with people and has spent so much time around sycophants and con-artists that he now struggles to form ties with his own family and generally comes across as a lonely old man who has shut himself off from much of the rest of the world. He even tells Chace in a private moment that gathering wealth only brings him a very brief moment of pleasure that goes as quickly as it comes.
  • Wealthy Ever After: J. Paul Getty wills his enormous estate to his grandchildren. Since they’re not yet of age, this leaves Gail in control of his assets.
  • Wham Shot: Only in the original trailer. After hearing about him but never getting a clear look we suddenly see "With Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty" which then cuts to a clear shot of Getty approaching the camera, removing a pair of Sinister Shades, and revealing Spacey under a lot of old man makeup. The trailer for the released version where Christopher Plummer replaced a disgraced Spacey did not try to recreate this moment, showing Getty beforehand instead of a big reveal. This makes sense, as while plenty of audiences likely didn't hear about the movie until the initial trailer, and thus would be surprised by an elderly looking Spacey, by the time of the second trailer, due to previous publicity, Spacey having his career ruined by a accusations of molestation, and thus being removed in favor of Plummer, everybody knew about this film and how Plummer would be playing Getty, meaning nobody would be surprised. Not to mention, Plummer, actually being in his eighties, didn't need to wear the same prosthetics, meaning the trailer couldn't bank on emphasizing an actor transformation.