Money Monster (2016)
Is it fair to criticise a movie for not being what it could have been? Some critics have pointed out that Money Monster (2016) does not go far enough in attacking the root causes of recent global financial meltdowns. But this is only one movie with one voice, and it was made for entertainment. If you want to see the shape of a movie-led subversive campaign you need to join the dots between recent films like 99 Homes (2014), The Big Short (2015), and believe it or not, Captain America: Civil War (2016). They all address issues of political and corporate accountability which have become the major cinematic themes of our time. All of them ask the same question: who guards the guardians in the bastions of capitalism and in the home of the free?
The film Money Monster is framed around a TV studio hostage scenario where a deranged bomb-laden amateur investor demands on-air answers about an $800 million IBIS stock-market crash. Lee Gates (George Clooney) has been targeted as the prancing celebrity Wall Street guru whose popularity rests on picking stock market winners. Crazed Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) sneaks into the studio and demands to know why the system is rigged so that shmucks like him can lose everything they own. The drama unfolds live under the cool control of executive producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) but panic escalates when Kyle’s pregnant girlfriend publicly abuses him as a loser. The siege moves to a street walk lined with police and hero-worshippers who also want answers, leading to Gates and Budwell confronting the IBIS CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) in an online feed watched by millions.
Money Monster is a tautly directed hostage thriller with an outstanding cast, a gripping real-time storyline, and enough probing insight into the greed industry to have some social value. Clooney’s performance anchors the film as he traverses emotions from arrogance to terror, to being a vigilante for the truth. If Clooney is the anchor then Roberts is the ship itself, playing steely calm balanced with enough glimpses of emotion to also make her the warm heart of the story. O’Connell plays escalating desperation so well that his performance sets the tension graph for the whole film. The camerawork feels like an on-air take and the story unfolds with edge-of-your-seat pacing and enough surprises to keep you guessing how this will turn out. The street walk could have been tightened by ten minutes, but otherwise it is outstanding entertainment that also asks important social questions.
Director: Jodie Foster
Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell