All the Money in the World: What is a human life worth?

If you’re looking for a film which will tug at your heart strings, look no further than this year’s All The Money In The World, a film about human life, sacrifice, and the people who put money first. Although the main cast are not relatable, everyday people, their moral questions and troubles are parallel to the ones in our normal lives, and the extremity of their situation helps to cushion how extreme they are as people.

The story begins in Rome in the early 70s. A group of masked men kidnap a teenager, Paul, played by Charlie Plummer, for one purpose: blackmail. Paul’s grandfather, also named Paul, but J. Paul, played by Kevin Spacey, is the richest man in the world, a billionaire oil tycoon. However blackmailing this man will not prove the simple affair the kidnappers hoped. Although Paul is his grandfather’s favourite grandchild, J. Paul is a miserly old man. To most of us, no price would be too high to rescue our loved ones. For J. Paul, losing a grandson is no reason to give up even a penny of his fortune. The story follows Paul Junior’s mother, Gail, a sacrificing woman who has always put her family before her father’s immense wealth. She is a devoted mother and a strong-willed woman, characteristic of the empowered women of the 70s, who will stop at nothing to save her son. She realizes that her son’s life is at risk, and that she may be the only person willing to try and save him. She desperately attempts to get her father to pay the ransom. Meanwhile, the kidnappers are becoming more desperate. Finding themselves confused and angry, they become brutal and dangerous to Paul’s well being. However Gail sees an opportunity when her father’s security staff decide to ally with her to rescue Paul.

The part which makes this so astonishing is that this film is based on real life events. And the movie is looking to be remarkably true to life. Paul really was kidnapped in Rome in 1973, and held at random for $17 million. A lot of his relatives at first did not believe this, as the boy had previously joked about staging a kidnapping to get money our of his grandfather. The second demand the kidnappers sent was delayed in the post. By the time they realized how real the situation was, J. Paul had made up his mind: he could not give in and pay this ransom, because it would encourage people to kidnap his other grandchildren, of which he had fourteen not counting Paul. At this point the kidnappers became desperate. They sent Paul’s ear in the post, and lowered their demand to $3.2 million. J. Paul was ready to pay… but still ready to barter. He got the price down to $2.9 million, but only paid $2.2 because anything over that was taxable. In the end, nine of the kidnappers were caught.

It is without a doubt that it is down to Paul’s wild, hippie parents, and most notably his determined, loving mother, that he went on to live. His family’s coldness towards his case was shocking to the world at the time, and is even more so now, but at no point were his parents celebrated as the heroes they are for going above and beyond to persuade his own grandfather to save his life. This film looks to explore and dramatize what happened, and show us all the true value of a mother’s love. Even though their situation was extraordinary, the film raises the real question of why people choose money over love and family, and will surely encourage us all to question the choices we are making in our lives right now.