By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review comes from Cannes Film Festival's 2016 opening gala via Leicester’s Phoenix cinema. I’m on hand to give you the low-down.
Money Monster stars an array of talent including George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell and Dominic West. Jodie Foster, actress turned director, is the shot caller on this dramatic thriller.
Usually, any film Jack O’Connell appears in is pretty decent. So when I sat down for Money Monster, I was hoping this trend continued…
Money Monster follows financial TV host Lee Gates (George Clooney) and his producer Patty (Julia Roberts) are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor (Jack O’Connell) takes over their studio as they film their weekly show, the eponymous Money Monster.
We join the film as the cocky but playful Lee Gates is gearing up for another run of his hit show. Patty is stressing like a stereotypical producer as it’s her final show before she moves to another network. The episode of Money Monster begins and Clooney introduces the audience to the narrative, and ultimately why Kyle (O’Connell) takes the studio hostage.
Walt Camby (Dominic West) runs a company named IBIS Clear Capital. IBIS’s stock inexplicably plummets due to a ‘glitch’ in a trading algorithm, costing the investors $800 million. And who do you think parted with $60,000? Kyle did! He enters the studio all guns blazing (literally) and the plot goes up a gear.
This is where Money Monster becomes gripping and intense. The first 20 minutes as the film sets itself up, I was sceptical. It seemed to follow just the usual spiel of thrillers like Man On A Ledge. However, sitting in the director’s chair is a surprise package. Jodie Foster is the ace up the sleeve. She tells the story swiftly, intelligently and brilliantly. As more and more scenes went on, I was becoming more and more immersed.
George Clooney is the glue here. You judge him harshly as an arrogant, over-paid celebrity when the film begins, but as every minute passes, he becomes the movie’s hero. It’s a great role for George and he fits the mould perfectly. He has the perfect amount of charisma, but also keeps himself humanistic when the trouble begins. Julia Roberts character is interesting too. She is very much submissive to George at the start, but when the turmoil arrives, she becomes the leader. It’s her job to get everyone out safe.
Jack O’Connell’s character is even more interesting. You almost will for him to succeed in a fashion. He’s certainly going about things the wrong way but he has an innocence about him. He is also the man of the people. He is chasing the answers, not for his $60,000 back.
To be fair, I’m not even doing the film justice here. Not only are there great performances and slick direction, but Money Monster is so much more than that. The film is another take on the financial crash from a different angle. It also shows how TV shows are put together and how networks can manipulate what content they put out. Jodie Foster knew full well what she wanted to convey.
Films about the financial markets are clearly in trend. We have had Wolf Of Wall Street, The Big Short, Margin Call and The Inside Job all focus on these elements. The difference with Money Monster is where the audience lies. With ‘WOWS’, we know the central protagonists did bad, with The Big Short, we know the core characters did bad, but Money Monster comes in at a different angle. Jack O’Connell isn’t the criminal here, George Clooney isn’t the criminal either, for once; it’s out and out villain is not in the limelight. Dominic West stays on the fringes of the plot and we only find out fully what is going on when all the loose ends are tied up in the climax. For once, unlike the finical crash movies, we don’t know what way Money Monster will go. The film plays back in real time and the intensity is so much stronger this way.
When Money Monster debuted in Cannes, I feared for it. Yet, I read the positives reviews and saw it received a round of applause. After my visit to the Phoenix, I couldn’t agree more. Jodie Foster nails the tension, the build-up and the entertainment. Anchored with stellar performances from the front three, Money Monster was never in doubt to be top thriller. You’ll struggle to find a better one this year.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
Money Monster is currently showing at the Phoenix Leicester and worldwide in selected cinemas – certificate 15.