Christopher Plummer – a brilliant performance as cantankerous Getty in next Wednesday’s film

Although loosely based on John Pearson’s book, Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J Paul Getty, the antecedence of Ridley Scott’s film has been largely overshadowed by the reshooting of scenes, in record time, that featured Kevin Spacey. What is all the more remarkable is the consequent brilliant performance from Christopher Plummer makes it hard to imagine anyone else playing cantankerous Getty.

Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg may notionally be the stars, but Plummer has all the best lines, and delivers them with a subtlety that almost has you sympathising with a man that happily continued to buy art to the value of his kidnapped grandson, while shunning any suggestion he pay a similar amount in ransom for the 16 year-old John Paul III. Was he really the meanest man in the world, or did he simply fear setting a precedent? David Scarpa’s clever screenplay keeps you guessing.

This is a film, not a history lesson, and as tensions increase we move further and further from the facts of the case. But there’s no doubt Scott has created a tense, involving thriller out of the bare bones of what really happened, helped in no small measure by the serendipitous casting of Plummer at the top of his game.

By David Vass