There has been a couple of defining moments since the turn of the century. Moments that have changed the way we think, the way we live and our future plans. First there was the World Trade Centres coming down. Then there was the economic collapse. Since the collapse the world plunged in to a global recession. This of course leads to a lot of people losing their jobs, their houses and just generally suffering. It left a bitter taste in a lot of people’s mouths and they looked for someone to blame. In an era of the internet everyone has a voice and that collective voice has been boiling over with rage for some time. So of course in comes Hollywood to profit from that anger.
Money Monster is directed by Jodie Foster and stars George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell. George Clooney is Lee Gates, a financial advisor on the television who is taken hostage live on air by Kyle Budwell (O’ Connell) whilst director Patty Fenn (Roberts) keeps the show going and attempts to control the situation. When a company named IBIS lost $80 million over night it cost Kyle his savings. He was angry and he wanted to know who to blame and why. With a gun and a bomb vest he takes control of the station and demands they keep on air until he has said his peace. Between the three of them they attempt to discover why IBIS lost so much money so quickly all whilst Lee and Patty try to stay alive.
This felt like a film without an identity. It didn’t know whether it wanted to be a suspense thriller or a political thinkpiece. Thus it doesn’t do very well at either. You left The Big Short ready to riot against the banks. This however made up a fake scenario and pinned it on one person and thus you felt satisfied that the wrongs were made right. The commentary it made about media and how it capitalises on disaster is nothing Nightcrawler didn’t do better. Not to mention the fact that this film is a piece of media capitalising on disaster. You could argue that it is the duty of art to shine a spotlight on these issues and thus it isn’t exploitation, but the way it is blended with a thrilling tale of David vs Goliath almost trivialises it. Foster should have decided if she really wanted to say something about corruption on Wall Street and the nature of media or just to tell an interesting story.
Having said that she does tell an interesting and entertaining story. Although she falls over a bit on the suspense part, as a thriller goes it works. You really want to know what has happened as it sews the seeds of doubt in the audiences mind. You want to know more about the lives of Lee, Kyle and Patty. It keeps you hooked in that sense. It has some amusing moments and lines that keep it from being too depressing, because at points it is truly sad. I thought back to the film Phone Booth whilst watching. The way it flips from the microcosm of the studio to how the world is reacting to the scenario as well as the obvious police presence. In style and also in ability these films feel very similar for some reason. Well made entertaining films that don’t blow anyone away, but I doubt offend anyone to the point of walking out.
Now I do want to talk about the performances. They are what elevated this film from an average run of the mill film in to something actually quite good. Clooney is at the best I’ve seen him for a long time. In Hail Caesar recently I felt he lacked the acting ability he once had. He proved me wrong in this however, playing the role of an aging lonely rich man very well (although that was him a few years back, drawing from experience must have been easy). You actually did empathise with a character that at first felt ridiculous and deplorable. Roberts was given the weaker screen time and lines, but did well with that she had. She was positioned between the action and the audience. She had a bit of control over the situation and you could sense that’s what kept her character from losing it in a trying time. Her relationship with Clooney’s character was an interesting dynamic that thankfully didn’t end in romance (small spoiler, but really doesn’t matter at all.)
The real star of the show however was O’Connell. This is an actor who I’ve followed for a long time. His first major role coming in the TV show Skins. His two seasons came out at the same time as me joining college so I was an avid watcher confused as to why my life wasn’t full of massive raves full of sex and drugs. Since then he has impressed massively in the films Starred Up and ’71. He is without a doubt one of the most exciting British talents on the rise right now. He plays the broken, working class Kyle very well. You are on his side the entire time despite the fact that he is really a terrorist. He is playing the every man who is at the end of his tether. Everyone has something inside them that wishes they could do something massive. Maybe not in this vein, but we don’t for a second question his motives.
Not a film I will be talking about for the next few years, but Money Monster is a very enjoyable watch. If it had either stuck to what it was inevitably good at, or swung the other way and gone all in as a political commentary, then maybe it could be elevated to something higher. I should have walked out wanting to destroy Wall Street the way I did about the banks after The Big Short. Instead I walked out entertained, but wholly underwhelmed and lacking much emotion at all about the film. I do however look forward to seeing more and more from O’Connell. I’m thankful this film isn’t bad enough to kill his career.