This account of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III and the subsequent clash between his mother, Gail, and ‘richest man in history’ Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom is directed by Ridley Scott. It turns out Scott is still a very competent director when he has a fixed script to deal with. As the continuing Alien debacle evidences though, he can no longer be trusted with greater artistic control.
The fashion for kidnapping rich kids by European communist groups in the 70s is a good reminder that terrorism is not a new invention. The young Getty gets taken in Southern Italy, but his Grandfather refuses to pay, always seeking a bargain, and more significantly to use the situation to his advantage in gaining custody of all his grandchildren after Gail’s estrangement from his drug addicted son. Enter Mark Wahlberg in Research Mark mode, crossed with CIA Mark (he has glasses so we know he’ll be sensitive). Plummer is ideally cast as the elderly Getty, with his Roman Empire obsession and fading dreams of a dynasty. Michelle Williams holds the centre of the film admirably as Gail, scrabbling to negotiate with two sets of ransoms, and the indifference of the Getty empire.
The dusty poverty of Southern Italy is well evoked, you can feel the heat and the flies, and there is requisite tension and drama to make it a film worth viewing, if not enough of any of these to make it highly recommended. However, as the voiceover of the young Getty says of the super rich “We look like you, but we’re not like you”, and while this otherness forms the foundation of the conflict, it is not really explored. I wanted to be angry that _anyone_ has as much money as Getty, not just that he was a miserable old bastard with it. In the end, an interesting historical account, well told, but no lasting message either morally or cinematically.