The premise is simple enough. J Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) was the world’s first billionaire, and with the film starting on July 10th 1973, his grandson, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer – no relation), is kidnapped and a ransom demand of $17m is issued.
Based on a true story some additional elements scripted in, the film jumps back and forth in time to set out Getty’s stall and give us a run-through of how he became so rich, and the bond he formed with his grandson, who he simply calls Paul. So, how come when the call comes that the kidnappers want all the cash, why won’t he pay a penny? It can’t just because he’s a tight-fisted get, surely? It’s one thing to haggle down the cost of an item from a street trader, but one’s own relative?
Taking the role of Getty’s son, John Paul Getty II, is Broadchurch star and fellow Stockport bloke Andrew Buchan, while Mark Wahlberg is lawyer Fletcher, hired by J Paul Getty to find him, hopefully bringing some solace to Getty II’s wife and Paul’s mother, Abigail (Michelle Williams).
There’s good acting in this – particularly from Ms Williams than Mr Wahlberg, but overall, there’s not a hugely gripping story to this, and it does rather go on a bit.
As for the real J Paul Getty, it’s well worth looking him up to see how things went in full, as it’s quite an eye-opener, but avoid that link until you’ve seen the film.
The film has had a chequered release since Kevin Spacey was originally due to take the role of J Paul Getty, and he did, and the entire thing was filmed, but after the allegations – and his admission – of being rather handsy with a young man, the studio wanted a new lead, so director Ridley Scott‘s original choice of Christopher Plummer was brought in for reshoots. Cue lots of criticisms that Mark Wahlberg was paid a lot of money for these, while Michelle Williams only received around $1500. However, how many extra days did either of them have to spend on set? For all we know, it might only have been one or two days for her and loads for him. But why would hack tabloids let facts get the way of a good story.
Even discounting the allegations about Kevin Spacey’s behaviour, when you look at the first trailer for this film, it was clear that he just wasn’t right for the part, since he’s far too young for the role and the ‘fat suit’ make-up was awful. Plummer was Scott’s choice for Getty, but Sony didn’t listen to him. Eventually, they had to.
At least these allegations have been admitted to, while the knives came out for many in Hollywood with unproven allegations, and the same in the UK for White Gold‘s Ed Westwick, who was due to star in the BBC’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence as Philip Durrant, but was replaced by Matthew Goode, and thus a three-episode drama set for three consecutive nights was clumsily rescheduled weekly in April, causing the scheduling for The Woman In White to get a bit messy as five weekly Sundays turned into three of those and two Mondays.
To that end, for the scenes with Plummer, there’s not as many as I was expecting, and more of those are with Wahlberg than with Williams, but overall, it makes me wonder if they had additional scenes with Spacey which just weren’t reshot with Plummer, since they only had a few weeks to turn things around.
Sadly, in an early scene, you can easily spot one big join, when Plummer is in Saudi Arabia. He’s been CGI’d in over the top of Spacey, to the point where he looks like he’s shimmering like kids in the Ready Brek adverts in the ’80s! It’s amazing that Hollywood can create dinosaurs walking, and aliens flying about, but they can’t get this simple thing right.
All that said, it would be interesting to see the Spacey cut at some time, out of curiosity. I doubt it’ll get an official release in the near future, though. I guess it’ll end up like the Eric Stoltz version of Back To The Future which never saw the light of day, as he reportedly filmed the entire thing with him in the lead, and then it was scrapped as they didn’t think he was right for the part. (Don’t hurry to make a decision, eh?) Whatever you think of him, I highly recommend you also check out Baby Driver, for a fantastic performance from all concerned including Spacey. The allegations surfaced the week before the Blu-ray and DVD’s release, and I feel so sorry for everyone involved that this must’ve hurt sales.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and as you’d expect for a modern movie shot on digital film, it looks flawless. Alongside glorious shots of Rome, there’s also some great use of colour grading to give hte period look. I’m watching on a PS4 played through a 50″ Plasma TV.
The DTS 5.1 HD-MA sound is fine, but this is mostly a dialogue and ambience piece, so there’s no issues with the sound, but it’s not a special FX movie.
The extras are as follows:
- Deleted Scenes (6:52): 9 scenes in just under 7 minutes, and nothing that you’d have missed without them.
- Ridley Scott: Crafting A Historical Thriller (9:11): Mixing in clips from the film and behind-the-scenes footage with chat from the cast and crew, this is an all-round featurette which takes in the look of the film, the locations, score and more, but all very briefly.
- Hostages to Fortune: The Cast (9:32): Ridley Scott and all the key cast members blow smoke up each other’s behinds.
- Recast, Reshot, Reclaimed (4:55): Finally, the elephant in the room is addressed, but… NOBODY mentions the name Kevin Spacey.
- Audio description: Does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s in both English and French, and this is the first time I’ve EVER seen an audio description in a language other than just English, in 19 years since the first one I came across on Tim Roth’s The War Zone.
There’s no expense spent on the menu: a static shot of Ms Williams and Mr Wahlberg, with a short piece of Daniel Pemberton’s opening score over the top. There are 16 chapters and subtitles in English, French and Spanish, and for the former, I will say the subtitles are a bit deaf, since there’s a scene in 1964 where they go to Macy’s, which they think has a height of around 80 storeys… or “stories” as we see in text form.
Running time: 132 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
Released: May 11th 2018
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Languages: DTS-HD MA 5.1: English; DTS 5.1: French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French Spanish
Format: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (3.4K))
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Ridley Scott
Producers: Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis, Dan Friedkin, Mark Huffam, Ridley Scott, Bradley Thomas and Kevin J Walsh
Sceenplay: David Scarpa (based on the book by John Pearson)
Music: Daniel Pemberton
Gail Harris: Michelle Williams
J. Paul Getty: Christopher Plummer
Fletcher Chase: Mark Wahlberg
Cinquanta: Romain Duris
Oswald Hinge: Timothy Hutton
John Paul Getty III: Charlie Plummer
John Paul Getty II: Andrew Buchan
Mammoliti: Marco Leonardi
Giovanni Iacovoni: Giuseppe Bonifati
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.