This review is of the TV-14 edited version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
It’s time for a film about a pretty big kidnapping back in the day. Now this was a while ago so if you aren’t familiar with the Getty family then you shouldn’t feel bad about it. I know about the people here but nothing about the kidnapping. Can’t say I even knew this was a thing that had happened back in the day so the film does a good job of telling the events here. Naturally I can’t speak to the historical accuracy of everything here but it was a good movie at any rate.
The movie starts with John getting kidnapped after hanging out in a rough part of town. I’m not sure exactly what he was doing there, maybe just trying to prove a point like he was strong or something? Either way it was not a good move in the slightest and just ended up getting him into a lot of trouble. After he is kidnapped, the kidnappers contact his mother Gail for millions of dollars. She has no funds but they want her to contact John’s grandfather Paul. Paul is the richest man in the world and apparently at the time he also became the richest person in the history of the world. So in theory he could pay the fee in an instant but chooses not too and instead hires an ex CIA agent named Fletcher to find and recover John. Fletcher is to work with Gail on this while keeping her out of the loop and as you can expect she is not happy in the slightest. Every minute they don’t pay the ransom is another minute of her son being in danger. Can the heroes win the day?
Paul ends up being one of the main antagonists in the film. Now of course he’s not as bad as the kidnappers for obvious reasons but the film makes it abundantly clear that saving John isn’t one of his priorities. He wants to keep his money at all costs and won’t be giving any out. Now, there are some valid arguments he makes but they all start to slip out of the window as we see more of his true self. So you can’t really defend the guy and he just turned out to be no good. The scene where he tries to shake Gail dry out of any money and taking away her kids showed exactly where his true loyalties lay. money was all that he cared about.
Now before the mask fell off and we saw his true face, here’s why I thought it was reasonable not to pay the random initially. Apparently Paul has over 15 different children around the world and it makes sense that it would inspire a lot of copycat crimes if he was to pay the ransom. He would end up losing his money quickly but more importantly it would also put the children in danger. Additionally, he gets many fake kidnapping letters and constant letters asking for money. Determining if the kidnapping was real and who actually needs help isn’t easy. It is a legitimate problem of being rich. Again, it goes out the window later on but initially it actually makes sense.
Likewise with hiring Fletcher on the downlow. It at least seemed like Paul was trying to get to the bottom of this but ultimately that’s just not how things played out. John goes through a rather tough ordeal for the entire film so there’s not much to say about him. He’s on the run the whole time and just trying to survive. Of course with hindsight you can recommend different options to him but he did well in escaping multiple times and there just wasn’t really anywhere to go.
Meanwhile Gail did a good job the whole time. She tries to earn the money through many different tactics and it’s just hard. She’s going up against everyone since she really doesn’t have a ton of support. Paul doesn’t want to give any money after all and while the general public may help with a kickstarter if this was in 2022, you can’t expect to raise millions of dollars that way. Emotionally she is absolutely taken to the breaking point as well but always stays strong. She keeps it together in public even when the paparazzi tell her to cry. They definitely seem as unhinged as always which seems like a really accurate representation from what I’ve seen.
As for Fletcher, I would say he was the MVP here. A lot of developments would not have been possible without him taking an extra close interest in the case. He was the guy that Gail needed to have her back and he did when the chips were down. Even if it meant putting his job on the line and going against his boss, he helped her out. He’s a very likable guy without a doubt. The guy stands his ground and does what he thinks is right in all situations.
There are a lot of good politics going on here between the characters. For the most part nobody likes each other but you have to put on some kind of a polite pretense or you won’t be getting far at all. Gail does a great job with this when dealing with Paul since I’m sure she would love to just absolutely crush the guy if given a choice. She has to play ball because she needs the money and knows how to play the long game. So she also deserves a whole lot of credit here. Nobody ever wants to be put into this situation and it’s why you won’t have any sympathy for any of the kidnappers. There’s one who tries to be a little nicer but at the end of the day if you’re in this line of work then there is really no hope for you. I know situations can be tough and maybe you’re in the wrong spot but at no point can I find any room to have sympathy for this guy. Some career choices just have no room for that and human trafficking and kidnapping absolutely falls into that.
Overall, This was a very interesting movie. It draws your attention and especially if you don’t know how the events concluded it will get very suspenseful. They pulled no punches with this film and I appreciated that. Now some parts can get a little intense like I would have cut out the ear scene personally. I know that’s likely a big part of the story but it’s the only part that really gets gruesome while this is mostly an emotional mental thriller. Even if John gets out alive by the end, you know that he will never be quite the same after this. You just don’t fully recover when you’ve been through the wringer like that but you hope he will mostly be okay and it still beats the alternative.