For all the hustle and bustle, moments of Scott's latest shine throughTRISTAR PICTURES

Have you ever seen a swan taking flight? Presumably you have, and that would seem ample justification for an extended metaphor.

The length of time required for a swan to achieve lift off is extraordinary. There is beating and thrashing, noise and bluster, with plumes of water being sent every which way to little effect. Just as one is beginning to question whether the oversized creature’s overwrought flailing is ever going to create sufficient momentum for take-off to occur, away the swan soars, a magnificent thing, weighty, substantial, and yet equal parts grace and power. The legs remain a trifle unwieldy even in the air, but essentially the spectacle is a pleasing one.

“J. Paul Getty emerges as a villain most captivatingly foul”

So All the Money in the World. It opens by flitting listlessly across three continents at three different time intervals, a portentous narration providing superfluous detail about the way of the Getty. It quickly becomes clear that this is a movie about a kidnapping, but one which is attempting unsuccessfully to develop every single one of its characters by giving them plenty of time, but not much of consequence to do or say. Christopher Plummer is certainly impressive, but many of his scenes at the film’s outset are simply flab, and when he is not on screen the drama is stifled by a fundamental failure to establish emotional engagement.

Trailer for All the Money in the WorldYOUTUBE

Then, there is violence. Gunshots ring out, and the swan takes to the air. From here on in, we have twists, turns and tension, horror, humour, fire, Mark Wahlberg, and blood. These elements are deftly combined by Ridley Scott to produce a picture that has one wincing and smirking, thrilled where previously some kip was on the cards. Often a twist is neatly set up only to be followed hot on its heels by another, and all of a sudden J. Paul Getty emerges as a villain most captivatingly foul, when before he had been a pleasant distraction.


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The most powerful scenes of the film take place in an auction house, then a museum, and involve no firearms, nor any violence of a physical kind. In these scenes, and essentially these scenes alone, Michelle Williams is able to demonstrate her ability to render the audience an emotional wreck. It was, however, impossible to watch them without the faint presence of the thought that it would have been nicer if such scenes had come along sooner.

Even after its glorious ascent, All the Money in the World retains an unnecessary sprawl. The ending is a curious one, overextended and relevant only in a contrived way. Romain Duris’s character remains frustratingly opaque to the end, while Marco Leonardi, a menacing presence, is nonetheless fleeting.

There is unfortunately no option merely to witness All the Money in the World as a swan in flight. The ugly preliminaries must be endured. As entertainment it is thus no more than decent, despite the undoubted brilliance it occasionally exhibits

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