Updated: Aug 21, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
“ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2017; R for profanity, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: “Recast, Reshot, Reclaimed” featurette
THE BEHIND-scenes drama in Ridley Scott’s riveting kidnap thriller, “All the Money in the World,” was mindboggling.
Forty-seven days before its premiere, news broke of a sexual-assault allegation against lead actor Kevin Spacey involving a 14-year-old boy. The fallout was immediate and unwavering in post-Weinstein Hollywood. Dozens more young men have since come forward against Spacey. Scott and producer Mark Huffam decided to completely erase Spacey, a two-time Oscar-winner, from the film.
“We cannot let one person’s action affect the good work of all these other people. It’s that simple.” – Ridley Scott
On November 22, cast and crew returned to the set with legendary actor Christopher Plummer, now 88, in the role of billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. The goal was to re-shoot 22 scenes in eight, 18-hour days.
“I was thrilled when Ridley called me because I’ve always wanted to work with him,” Plummer says during one of three featurettes included on the Blu-ray and available on iTunes and Vudu streaming. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is very much like the old school directors [like] Hitchcock, who know how they’re gonna cut the film before they even film it.”
Actor Mark Wahlberg, who plays former CIA agent Fletcher Chase, now Getty’s security man, felt Scott was the only person who could've pulled off the re-shoot. “The movie [was] being released in theaters in less than a month, but [we continued] to shoot,” he says. Wahlberg and co-star Michelle Williams, who plays Getty's daughter-in-law Gail Harris, were excited about getting another crack at their performances. "It's the most interesting and fulfilling cinematic experience of my career," Wahlberg says.
Their part in the re-shoot also generated news, when it came out that Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million, while Williams’ received only $1,000 for her work. It was a very public example of salary inequities between men and women, and response was fierce. Both actors resolved the situation amicably, while forging a step towards equal pay.
Production designer Arthur Max was able to recall most of the original crew, while script supervisor Annie Penn and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski made sure the camera and actors were positioned in the exact same spots for the re-shoot. Scott’s film was already finished, including post-production music, so the new footage had to be a perfect match. The editors gave the director and his crew all the camera angles and background views needed for each scene. “It was really like a blueprint,” Max says.
Huffam acknowledges Plummer delivered a very different Getty. “I was proud to be with him here under these circumstances. It’s kind of an amazing feat,” Williams said of her new co-star. She had spent weeks reviewing YouTube clips of Harris, listening to speech patterns and watching her movements. “There’s a lot of information in how she speaks and with her dialect,” Williams says during the featurette “Hostages to Fortune: The Cast.”
Plummer’s performance is captivating. Clearly, he’s at the top of his game. The role is not small, and the new footage blends seamlessly throughout the movie. It’s no wonder he received his third Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Plummer won an Oscar in 2012 for “Beginners,” and was nominated in 2009 for “The Last Station.” He is best known as Capt. Von Trapp in the musical favorite, “The Sound of Music” (1965).
“All the Money in the World,” by screenwriter David Scarpa, is based on the book and actual events surrounding the kidnapping of teenage heir John Paul Getty III, played by Charlie Plummer (no relation), who’s grabbed off the streets of Rome in 1973. Ransom was set at $17 million.
Coldhearted Getty tells the press he will not pay for the safe return of his grandson. Not even a dime. His rationale is that it would put the rest of the family at risk for kidnapping. Meanwhile, Harris is frantically working back channels to get her son back. French actor Romain Duris is the hot-tempered kidnapper who develops a relationship with young John Paul, even though the imprisonment turns violent.
Scott and cinematographer Wolski captured the original footage and the re-shoot on 3.4K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio), although, sadly, it was mastered in 2K. Filmed in Rome, the Italian countryside and Getty’s luxurious English estate, the picture still looks stunning.
The Sony Blu-ray and the 4K Ultra HD streaming on iTunes are very similar in color toning, with or without HDR. Scott baked his visuals with a semi-hyper contrast level, one of his cinematic trademarks, with hot highlights and deep, deep blacks. He also desaturated the colors in a number of scenes – especially during a flashback when Grandpa Getty gives “Little Paul” a tour of a Roman ruin.
Sharpness on the iTunes 4K is slightly more advanced than the Blu-ray for the majority of scenes. Still, we discovered some digital scrubbing applied to several scenes on streaming 4K. In a scene filmed in a Jordan desert, with a locomotive in the distance (subbing for 1948 Sandi Arabia), the sand texture is softened. The Blu-ray is more clearly defined. (Check the frame shots.) In a shot just before, the 4K looked clear. It’s an off and on washout. The Blu-ray shows no signs of scrubbing.
It’s a good guess Apple is to blame and/or a possible effect of lower streaming bitrate even through its upconverted 4K picture. Sony’s excellent track record of preserving and scanning films to their original quality likely clears them of digital touchup. We know Sony’s iTunes 4K of “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” from start to finish was sharper from the more-apparent natural film grain.
Scott assembled diverse music styles and sounds for the eight-channel DTS-HD soundtrack on Blu-ray (iTunes the lousy Dolby Digital Plus). Rock hits include The Rolling Stones’ classic “Wild Horses,” “Time of the Season” from the Zombies, and “Belinda” from Gianni Morandi, paired with composer Daniel Pemberton’s operatic main theme, using organ, strings, flute, and choral tracks to build tension and convey emotional cues in his original score. The majority of the film arrives front and center, with its dialogue-driven storyline. Environment sounds convey an immersive sense of place.
Overall, the 4K is a slightly better watch, while the Blu-ray is first-rate in both picture and sound. Unfortunately, Sony didn’t release a 4K disc with its higher bitrate, because there would’ve been no contest.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer