Mark Wahlberg

All the Money in the World

 

06/01/18

You have to admire Ridley Scott. At eighty years old, he seems to have levels of energy and commitment that would put younger directors to shame. Having emerged from the disappointment that was Alien Covenant, he threw himself headlong into his next project, the stranger than fiction tale of the abduction of Paul Getty III, nephew of multi-millionaire J Paul Getty. The film was in post-production when the allegations about Kevin Spacey (who was playing J Paul Getty) emerged, and Scott went to the unprecedented lengths of reshooting all of his scenes with a new actor, Christopher Plummer. The fact that Plummer is now being talked up for Oscar nominations speaks volumes about how successfully he has been assimilated into the final product.

It’s 1976 and sixteen year old Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) is wandering around Rome, enjoying life, when he is unceremoniously bundled into a van and driven to a remote location in the wilds of Italy. His mother, Gail (Michelle Williams in her latest onscreen transformation), receives a phone call saying that the kidnappers are demanding a ransom of seventeen million dollars and that Gail should approach her father-in-law for the money.

But there’s a problem. J Paul Getty isn’t your usual sort of millionaire. He may be the richest man in history but he still launders his own underwear when he stays in hotels and has even had a coin-operated red telephone box installed in his British mansion for whenever guests wish to use the phone. He outright refuses to pay the ransom and brings in Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to handle negotiations with the kidnappers. As time slips by, Paul’s situation begins to look more and more precarious… and it’s only a matter of time before blood is shed.

Screenwriters David Scarpa and John Pearson have crafted a sprawling, but fascinating story, with details so weird that they really couldn’t pass for fiction. Okay, so some elements have been tweaked for the sake of building suspense – the conclusion of the case was certainly not as nail-bitingly dramatic as it’s portrayed here and occasiona liberties have been taken with the chronology of the story – but it all makes for a compelling narrative and, naturally, Scott makes every frame look gorgeous. Michelle Williams seems to completely reinvent herself from film to film and Plummer is good enough to make you stop caring what sort of a job Spacey might have made of so meaty a role.

Ironically of course, the reshoots have helped to bring this film to wider public attention and, judging by the packed afternoon screening we’re attending, All the Money in the World is destined to do a lot better than its predecessor. It absolutely deserves to.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

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Patriots Day

25/02/17

Oh, that missing apostrophe! It’s threatening to derail my review; it just looks like a mistake and I’m itching to add it. Why have they left it out, I wonder? It must be a deliberate choice (there are enough people involved in the making of a film to rule out simple ignorance, and it is included in the captions telling us when and where events take place). A design issue, maybe? Whatever, it’s annoying, and it’s distracting me.

Which is a shame, because this is actually a very good movie, addressing issues far more important than errant punctuation. It’s a docudrama, detailing the police response to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured hundreds more. Mark Wahlberg is the ideal actor for the role of ‘everycop’ Tommy Saunders: he’s convincingly ordinary, driven by a mixture of ideals and selfishness, a flawed and sometimes self-destructive individual. The bombing tests him – and he comes up trumps. When it matters, he – and Boston – have what it takes.

Really, this is a film about humanity. We are introduced to all the main players – victims, police officers and terrorists alike –  in their domestic settings, so that we see what drives them and what they have to lose. Brothers Dzokhar (Alex Wolff) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) are depicted as nihilistic individuals, more akin to school-shooters than organised terrorists. Their affiliations are only to each other; they’ve self-radicalised, spurred each other on, building their bombs in Tamerlan’s kitchen, while his daughter plays in full view of them. Dzokhar’s childishness is especially poignant: he’s a little boy, despite his nineteen years. He whines and whinges at his older brother: I want to hold the gun. I want to drive the car. He’s a brat, whose teenage rebellion has been warped – and made him dangerous. He’s only a little bit different from his stoner friends, but that small difference is everything. It makes me wonder how he might have been saved.

But the heroes here are the police and FBI, working painstakingly to catch the bombers before they kill anyone else: reportedly, they’re on their way to New York to wreak more havoc there. The processes are made explicit in a way I haven’t seen before: it’s all logic and collation, sifting through potential evidence. The tension wracks up unbearably, even though the story is familiar, and the outcome is well-known. It’s the personal stuff that generates the suspense: will these people come out of this okay?

During her police interview, Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine (Melissa Benoist) remains tight-lipped, saying little. She does, however, contend that “worse things happen in Syria every day.” The tragedy is that she’s right. And goodness knows how those people cope, because this – one bombing, one day – is awful, and will have a profound impact on Boston’s population for many years to come. It’s a terrible excuse, of course: only a twisted logic justifies one atrocity by referring to another. But it should be enough to make us care, to make us want to help those for whom such events are devastatingly commonplace.

Writer/director Peter Berg maximises the impact by incorporating genuine CCTV and news footage into the mix, giving his film a realism and authenticity that makes it hit home.

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield

Deepwater Horizon

deepwater-horizon-movie-reviews

03/10/16

The name is synonymous with one of the worst industrial accidents of all time. In April 2010, the titular drilling rig suffered a catastrophic explosion that spilled millions of tonnes of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, causing untold damage to the eco-system. The environmental impact was unprecedented – but Peter Berg’s film is much more concerned with the human story behind the disaster. One hundred and twenty six crew members worked aboard the Deepwater Horizon and, sadly, not all of them lived to tell the story.

The events are seen largely from the POV of engineer Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg). We first join him at his home, shortly before he leaves for an eventful three-week shift on the drilling platform and we catch his interplay with his wife, Felicia (Kate Hudson) and his young daughter, Sydney (Stella Allen). Barely ten minutes in, we care about him. And then we’re aboard the rig, watching as he goes about his daily routine, exchanging pleasantries with the other crew members and noting the concerns of safety officer, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), who feels that safety checks are being ignored because the drilling is forty three days behind schedule, something that’s encouraged by BP executive, Vidrine (John Malkovich, playing a character almost as oily as the stuff the crew are drilling for). Of course, history tells us that something went badly wrong and the suspense racks steadily up to the moment when it actually does.

From here on, we’re in disaster movie territory, as all hell breaks loose. It’s a horribly immersive experience and there’s barely time to draw breath as the crew run desperately around the rig, trying to stay alive. Strangely, it’s only after the blitzkrieg of special effects is over that the emotions are hit – there’s a key scene here that had me filling up and it will be a stony individual indeed, who doesn’t feel similarly compelled.

Ultimately, Deepwater Horizon is a tale of heroism – both Williams and Harrell went far beyond what might have been expected of people in such circumstances. It also makes for a thrilling cinematic experience. As the credits roll, we see the real people behind the story, who – surprise, surprise – are nothing like as photogenic as the actors who portray them, but it drives home the fact that this is a true story, where once again corporate greed puts profits above human lives.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney