A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Jodie Foster
Written By: Alan Di fiore, Jim Kouf (Story/Screenplay), Jamie Linden (Screenplay)
Produced By: Lara Alameddine, George Clooney, Daniel Dubiecki, Grant Heslov
Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell
Running Time: 98 Minutes
It appears that over the years Jodie Foster has picked up a couple of tips as to what makes a solid and riveting thriller. If not for her work alongside Hannibal Lecter, her experience with David Fincher may have given her a few insights into the genre that is particularly difficult to completely execute. Her fourth directorial feature, Money Monster, is a self-contained, skilfully manipulated thriller centred around a charismatic and pomous financial TV host and a man holding him hostage live on air.
With a brilliant premise, fantastically rounded performances and plot progression that hits on the majority of its beats, Money Monster is a truly surprising picture with a lot to offer about issues far greater than a man demanding retribution for financial injustice with his finger on the trigger.
Tapping into our present day fears of financial corruption, terrorism and synthetic ways of living, the film, through some brilliantly raw directing from Foster, finds a way to explore greater issues whilst containing itself in a singular room for the majority of its runtime. Through dialogue and well deserved narrative beats, there is absolutely no breathing room within the picture; so be warned, there are no toilet breaks with this one.
Although ridiculousness and farfetched concepts ensue, the Hollywoodised spin on an otherwise unlikely, but not improbable synopsis manages to keep itself seldom grounded – a breath of fresh air compared to others of its kind.
George Clooney plays Lee Gates, the host of the show Money Monster, and once again delivers his best George Clooney impression, whilst Julia Roberts as production manager Patty Fen doesn’t get off that easy either. Yet through their usual predictable efforts, they emerge the other side of the picture with a believability to their characters.
The casting upon reflection is rather superb. Competing with demands and on the spot negotiations with a volatile gunman (Jack O’Connell) threatening to take Gates’ life on air, the human elements of the cast’s performances are brought to the forefront, making them largely investible (unlike some particular market stocks).
It may be the enclosed environment, the high-stakes atmosphere or purely the refreshing lack of superfluous backstory; but through raw, committed and humanised performances (in particular that of Jack O’Connell, who continues his incredible run of form), the dynamics and scenarios become incredibly real and grippingly tense.
One of the most intriguing and unexpected aspects of the film is the depiction of the general public. Cutting back and forth between the control room, the studio set and occasionally to offshore correspondents tangled up in this financial anomalistic mess, the film sporadically cuts to everyday people watching the live feed from various places across the globe. The way in which these people are presented offers a strange, but powerful element into the mix, giving the audience something deep and significant to contemplate for themselves.
The manner in which the film antagonises certain characters, humanises others but spotlights most is truly fascinating. It seems nobody is safe within the picture as it shifts blame onto almost everybody in various through-provoking ways. Taking a stab at Wall Street, foreign industries, corrupt executives and even everyday individuals, the film offers plenty of reasons for audiences’ blood to curdle, however it also forces them to sit back and take a look at themselves.
The choice to include moments of humour amid the pulsating moments of tension is a brave one to make, and it’s a shame when some of those bold moments of contrast and unexpectedness don’t quite hit (for example, a moment involving two staff members in a confined spot backstage). This isn’t to say that the film is without some cleverly incorporated humorous moments. When they land, they land well, but other than the few moments in particular, it’s difficult not to think the film wouldn’t have lost any quality had those aspects been extracted altogether.
The handling of characters is approached rather well, however, like the inclusion of attempted humour at times, some shoehorned moments of drama could have been overlooked as they seemed slightly unnecessary, given how little time was spent exploring them in the first place. In the grand scheme of things, the tension reigns supreme, and the sole focus of the picture is the moment, the now.
Beneath all the exaggeration and the suspension of disbelief that comes with that, Money Monster is a cleverly written picture that finds a way to ground almost every one of its characters. Perspectives dramatically shift as the film unravels, therefore keeping the audience engaged and intrigued as to where it will go next.
A thriller that could have easy been released amid some of the classics from twenty to thirty years ago but relates heavily to our present day and has a far greater impact, Money Monster exhibits all the necessary and crucial qualities of an investible, effective thriller and utilises them intelligently and with a solid sense of direction.
Getting not just the best out of the story presented to her, Foster expertly harnesses her stars and captures something potent within their brilliantly fluctuating, high-pressured performances. After falling off the acting map for a few years and occasionally dabbling in television directing since, it’s refreshing to see Foster continue her run of motion pictures under a different title.
Demonstrating her all-rounder aptitude once again, Money Monster is an example of how in the right hands, thrillers can still be highly original and as gripping as ever.