Synopsis – Financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor takes over their studio.
My Take – A common theme in Hollywood financial thrillers is that Wall Street is corrupt. In recent times, we have seen a couple of pretty informative films (Inside Job, The Big Short and to some extent Wolf of Wall Street), which found ways to boil things down for us ‘the common people’, in order to understand how the financial industry works. Judging by its excellent trailers, I walked into this movie knowing with a strong cast & a social justice concept, this intense thriller is going to be very entertaining. Luckily, I was right! But I must warn you if you are looking for something of an Oscar caliber or to learn more about the financial exchange, this film is not for you. It’s a fictional drama and for a hostage thriller, it does its job very well. Jodie Foster with her solid direction taps into today’s anger issues with Wall Street and aims her barbs at big businesses while keeping the action moving at a brisk pace. She has also wisely assembled a fine cast of actors to heighten the suspense. Plus why wouldn’t you want to watch Clooney & Roberts reunite after the delightful Oceans series? The story follows Lee Gates (George Clooney), a cable TV personality who hosts an entertaining financial whiz show called Money Monster, a parody of the real life Mad Money. His frequent changes to the scripts and arrogant attitude have been something of an annoyance to show director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts). The show that day focuses on a company called IBIS and a recent glitch that caused a loss of $800 million of investor money. This proved to be too much for a deliveryman who managed to sneak into the studio and appear on live TV with a gun. This gunman is a working class laborer Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) who holds Lee Gates responsible for making him lose sixty thousand when he told on his show that IBIS would be a solid investment. With no choice, Money Monster continues to air live as Gates is forced to wear a vest with a bomb on it. Forcing Lee to try and find out what happened with the supposed “glitch”. As Fenn and Lee dig deeper, they start to realize everything is not as it seems. Time is ticking as a bomb could be going off and Lee reconsiders what he said before.
Like last year’s Oscar winner Spotlight, the film revives the lost ideal of responsible, investigative journalism. Gates initially embodies the modern media’s — like the government’s — sellout to corporate America. Then his cocooned complacency is upset by the invasion by a threatening bomber outraged that Gates’s glib recommendation caused the man and other financial ruin. Within the film’s economical running time, actress/ director Jodie Foster keeps things moving and injects several lighter moments, while also managing excellent character development, which her perfectly-cast and very talented actors sell with aplomb. The movie offers some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, even playing on a couple of stereotypes that commonly take place in these type of movies (calling in the next of kin for the hostage taker/terrorist was really different). What to many film goers produced glazed eyes in the excellent cinema version of Michael Lewis‘ ‘The Big Short‘, is more accessible here. Furthermore, it exposes the fraud committed and continues to be committed by investment banks and hedge funds. No computer glitches here; the fraud is fueled by old fashioned greed. What makes the film so on target is it exposes people like Gates who haven’t the slightest clue as to what drives the market, and the inside of a business. Who might have had a degree in economic, yet didn’t understand the market until his life is at stake. And even then, were it not for Fenn, resourceful and forceful, as she whispers the magic words exposing the scam on the public by a powerful corporation through an ear piece, does Gates get an up-to-speed course on algorithms and the geopolitical scheming of the giant multinational corporations.
The film is also surprisingly funny. Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t call it a comedy by any stretch of the imagination because there were moments that were roll-you-eyes obnoxious, most of which came from the TV shows production, but there were definitely moments where I found myself laughing out loud. The reversal of the pregnant girl’s usually sentimental appeal to her man is hilarious. My only problem with the film was it not as big or impactful as it wants to be in the final act, as it stands as a microcosm of the financial stresses most of the world is constantly going through. It’s an important movie, but there are others that are slightly more important (I am not going to talk about them now). And I had figured out roughly how the movie was going to end by about 5 minutes into the movie. It was pretty obvious where they were going, but it was still refreshing how they ended up getting there. Being that the majority of the film takes place in a secluded area with our three main characters, Jodie Foster does a great job making sure that the film never feels claustrophobic. Part of this is due to the performances of George Clooney and Jack O’Connell. The two of them spend the majority of the screen time together and they have great chemistry. They each portray a believable character as we see under each of their fake personalities and truly digest the fact that they are just regular people. George Clooney uses his charismatic good looks and acting prowess to show us a flawed man who must call on his inner strength to survive. Julia Roberts, in a more supporting part, creates a straight-forward no-nonsense professional who truly values her partner. Jack O’Connell brings out the frustration and confusion of his character well. O’Connell continues his winning streak after superb performances in films ’71 and the Angelina Jolie directed Unbroken. Lending fine support are Dominic West, Christopher Dunham, Lenny Venito, Emily Meade, and Caitriona Balfe who emits a real star quality on screen. On the whole, ‘Money Monster’ is a wonderfully entertaining thriller which despite its slight predictability manages to keep you on the edge of your seats for the whole of its run time.
Directed – Jodie Foster
Run Time – 98 minutes
Rated – R