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Tag Archive: Ben Affleck Argo


Review by C.J. Bunce

It was a bit of an oddity this year to have a choice of watching on television or at the movie theater what might have been a forgotten footnote to the strange 1970s life styles of the rich and famous.  In many ways the only real value of the story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson to the once richest man in the world, is the almost Aesop’s Fables inspired punchline of the movie title, All the Money in the World.  Mark Wahlberg as security man Fletcher Chase gets to deliver the goods to Getty at film’s end:  It doesn’t matter how much money the billionaire Getty had, it didn’t bring him happiness.  Based on John Pearson’s book, Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, the film is now streaming on multiple platforms.  This year’s television series Trust, featuring Donald Sutherland as the senior Getty, offered up the same story over a much too long 10 episodes.  Sutherland’s Getty is shown as far more disturbing than in the movie, and other than providing an example of Sutherland in another creepy role, the show had very little to offer.

All the Money in the World, the film version of the story, features a showcase of acting talent in a script that is almost up to the task.  Christopher Plummer is Getty I, the grandfather who in 1973 refused to pay his grandson’s ransom, even after those who kidnapped him cut off and mailed-in the young man’s ear.  Plummer stepped in late in production after Kevin Spacey was ousted from the film because of Spacey’s sexual misconduct scandal.  The result proves that at any age Plummer can create a compelling character, even if the real man behind the character seems far less interesting than one might think.  Wahlberg is playing what has become one of his stock character styles–this is the brash Boston cop in The Departed and the decisive marksman from Shooter.  Wahlberg plays the tough guy well here, in a role that echoes private investigator Jay J. Armes’ rescue of Marlon Brando’s kidnapped son just one year before the events in the film.  Young actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher) is Getty’s grandson, an atypical twist on the typical troubled youth character.  French actor Romain Duris is compelling as a member of the captor group who helps keep Getty alive during is confinement.  Always delivering a strong performance, Oscar winner Timothy Hutton unfortunately is underutilized as Getty’s loyal lawyer Oswald Hinge.

Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie is similar in execution to last year’s Steven Spielberg historical drama The Post.  The film has themes in common with Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, but Scott didn’t opt to add any memorable style as Welles did with his classic story of a man acquiring possessions to the exclusion of family or love.  It’s not great, but it’s a solid drama.  But the biggest success of the film comes through via its lead actress, four-time Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams.  Williams portrays the grandson’s mother not as an emotional wreck but a determined mother who works frantically to negotiate her son’s release, with no help from the elder Getty or her disaster of an ex-husband.  And she couldn’t justify those Academy nods any better than balancing an affected accent, the billionaire family lifestyle, and that single mom angst as she attempts to reflect a parent handling a tragic event most people will never have to encounter.

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When a movie director can re-create the right look and feel of a time and place, the film can take audiences in a darkened theater into the past as well as any time machine.   This year the re-creation is July 1973 and the place is Rome.  The subject is a celebrity family kidnapping that has faded in the memories of most and unknown to the rest, the kidnapping of oil baron and “The Richest Man in the World” J. Paul Getty’s grandson, and the efforts taken to get him back.  All the Money in the World is based on the book Painfully Rich by John Pearson, with a script by David Scarpa (The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)).  The real-life account of the kidnapping is the stuff of great drama, full of strange decisions and bizarre actions by all involved.  The kidnapping is best known for the ear that was put in the mail–and delayed by a postal strike in Italy–sent by the kidnappers to press the Getty family to pay the ransom.  The story has plenty of room to illustrate the bumbling and the Reversal of Fortune-esque actions of the uber-wealthy that occurred along the way.

The film is directed by Ridley Scott, and stars young actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher Plummer) as J. Paul Getty III.  Michelle Williams portrays Gail Harris, mother of the kidnapped Getty.  Kevin Spacey looks believable as the aged and eccentric billionaire Getty and Timothy Hutton plays his lawyer.  And Mark Wahlberg, the highest paid actor in Hollywood, portrays the preposterously–but actual–named Fletcher Chase, a “tall, craggy-faced American” who was an ex-CIA operative from San Diego sent by the billionaire to assist in the release of his grandson.

The 1970s era (although the early part of the decade instead of the later) and a key role by a single hardened CIA-trained operative echoes Ben Affleck’s 2012 Best Picture Academy Award winner Argo.  The 1970s look and feel in All the Money in the World is provided by Oscar-nominated production designer Arthur Max (Gladiator, Blackhawk Down, The Martian, Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus) and set decorators on several productions featuring Italy of the past, Letizia Santucci, Cristina Onori, and Gianpaulo Rifino.  The film also features acclaimed genre cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Martian, War Machine, Dark City, Alice in Wonderland, Alien: Covenant, and the 1980s best rock videos from Aerosmith and Van Halen to The Bangles and Suzanne Vega).

Check out this first trailer for All the Money in the World:

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He wasn’t a machine, but he was Borg just the same.  Like many European athletes at the time, Bjorn Borg was reserved when in the public eye, a man of few words who chose to express himself instead on the tennis court.  Quite the opposite was John McEnroe, seemingly always outspoken, and his hallmark became a courtside tantrum when frustrated, often yelling at the referees and smashing more than a few rackets.  Both players were the best of the best.

A new movie coming this Fall focuses on the infamous rivalry between John “You Cannot Be Serious” McEnroe played by Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, The X-Files, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and Bjorn “Iceman” Borg, played by Sverrir Gudnason (Gentlemen & Gangsters, Blowfly Park), as the two players headed toward their showdown at Wimbledon in 1980.  Alternately titled Borg/McEnroe and Borg vs. McEnroe, the film’s publicity boasts a battle of wills and personalities greater than Mayweather vs. McGregor.  Directed by Janus Metz Pedersen, whose credits include directing an episode of True Detective, the film also stars David Bamber (The King’s Speech, A&E’s Pride and Prejudice, Valkyrie, Doctor Who), Tuva Novotny (A War, Slim Susie), and Stellan Skarsgard (The Hunt for Red October, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Avengers).

Both lead actors look the part, and the cinematography by Niels Thastum (When Animals Dream, The Girl and the Dogs) shown in the first two trailers evokes the realism of Ben Affleck’s Oscar winner, Argo.  If you don’t remember Wimbledon of 1980, don’t look up the summary, just wait for the film.  Suffice it to say, millions watched the finals via television, and it was, indeed, a great event, and when all is said and done, these two were truly equals.  A review of their compared stats is simply stunning in similarity.

Check out these previews for the film:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In Argo, the stakes could not be greater.  It is 1979 and the American embassy in Iran is stormed by a vast street mob seeking to hold hostage 52 people in exchange for the return of the Shah of Iran, granted asylum in the United States and dying from cancer.  For 444 days we waited and hoped for their release, and each day Walter Cronkite ended his news broadcast with the number of days they’d been held.  It was the ultimate nightmare and the sporadic glimpses of the hostages being led away with white blindfolds made us all imagine what kind of terror they must each be going through, as Christmas 1979 and  Christmas 1980 came and went, as back home we all went ahead with our lives every day.  But Argo is not about the 52 hostages.

At the time the embassy was attacked, six Americans working in the embassy managed to escape and hide out in the home of the Canadian ambassador and his wife.  Argo is the story of a completely illogical, unlikely, nearly impossible–even crazy–plan involving a mock sci-fi movie concocted to rescue them, and two friends back in the States who came together in 1980 to create a plan and convince President Carter to give the go-ahead to proceed with the mission.

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