The destructive power of money and deep seated mistrust of the financial industry are underlying thematic concerns in Jodie Foster’s tightly constructed and topical thriller Money Monster. This smart and absorbing film boasts an all star cast led by George Clooney and Julia Roberts, but it is British actor Jack O’Connell who steals the show.
Clooney plays Lee Gates, host of a tacky live TV news programme which provides stock market tips to potential investors. Whilst filming an episode, his set is hijacked by a Kyle Budwell (O’Connell), a gun wielding regular Joe who has cracked after losing a huge sum of a money on a tip from the show that was deemed to be ‘safer than your savings account.’ Convinced that he has been conned, Kyle straps a bomb to Lee and demands to keep the broadcast on air until an explanation is forthcoming from Clooney and the trading fund who somehow managed to lose $800 million due to a supposed systematic glitch.
The interplay between Clooney and O’Connell drives the narrative arc and keeps the tension factor at a high level throughout. O’Connell nails the role, channelling a gamut of emotions in a powerhouse performance which personifies the desperation, anger and pathos of the everyman in the current financial climate. Charismatic Clooney is perfectly cast and adds a streak of complexity and compassion to a character who on the surface has few redeeming features. Roberts is in fine form too as cool, level headed producer Patty Fenn who watches over the drama while attempting to stop the volatile situation from slipping out of control. The leads are ably assisted by a stellar supporting cast including Dominic West as shady CEO of IBIS Clear Capital, the company at the centre of the stock market conspiracy and fellow alumni of The Wire, Chris Bauer as a hapless hostage negotiator. A small but hugely effective turn from Emily Meade, as Kyle’s pregnant and deeply pissed off spouse Molly, provides one of the film’s most memorable scenes. Rather than defuse the situation, a snarling, impassioned rant at her other half adds further fuel to the fire. It is cutting, hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time and perfectly captures the vitriolic tone of the film. The well drawn characters and clever script are complemented by Foster’s economical direction and slick cinematography by Matthew J. Libatique.
Stylistically and structurally the film shares DNA with other New York set hostage thrillers such as Dog Day Afternoon and Inside Man, while the cross cutting between the live TV feed and shots featuring the onlooking public recalls reality TV pastiche films The Truman Show and Edtv. It’s not an overly original piece of work and some momentum is lost as we move toward the inevitable climax. Nevertheless this is an enthralling, intelligent and pointed piece of filmmaking. It taps into some potent and timely issues which are at the forefront of the collective conscience in Trump infested America and is thoroughly entertaining to boot. Overall Money Monster is a sure fire winner, well worth your investment.