Rome, I reckon is a city that has been portrayed on film across pretty much every era, century and decade of its existence. The mystical Rome playing its version of hide n seek shrouded in the symbolic smoke of the essenced thuribles emanating from the ramparts of the Vatican, the magical Rome constantly conjuring up the holographic reenactments of the famous events throughout her history in the various wrinkled and weather beaten and yet gracefully aging crucibles of the Roman civilization, the maniacal Rome of the tourists, mafia, drugs, disco, prostitutes and pickpockets and of course the mysterious Rome home to urban legends galore and ground zero for Armageddon, supernatural and espionage themed narratives. With that kind of exhaustive exposure one would be right in concluding that Rome would have already been captured in conceivably every hue and every mood there was. But then, one would be dead wrong!
An octogenarian named Sir Ridley Scott just shattered that notion to pieces with his latest creation on celluloid. The master movie helmsman has yet again triumphed in rendering yet another city in a heretofore unused color palette and quite remarkably on a canvas minus the usual template that has veritably been used to paint the ‘eternal city’ on. Rome merely serves as the featureless backdrop and yet it is distinctively and unmistakably Rome that comes through in every scene that is set in it. Scott sprays the perfume of historical nostalgia with such finesse that the sillage of it lingers on the viewers olfactory senses throughout all frames set in Sutton Place, the iconic 16th century Tudor estate in the English countryside, the then abode of J. Paul Getty.
That is the genius of the man. His storytelling isn’t contrived and his use of any cinematic flares to grab hold of the viewers attention is conspicuous by its absence. To go from the futuristic ‘The Martian’ to this saunter back in time just showcases the staggering range and repertoire of this Hall of Famer. The only minor wrinkles that I’m able to summon into consideration is the pace of the film which could have perhaps benefited from the upping of the tempo by a beat or two and also from the judicious snip of the editors shears.
The plot is inspired by true events centered around the life of the British-American oil tycoon J. Paul Getty and is based on a 1995 book on the same subject. It is not your edge of the seat, peeping through the crevices of the fingers humdinger but the screenplay and the performances are arresting enough to keep you transfixed.
Speaking of performances, Michelle Ingrid Williams is ‘money’.
The coruscating Williams essaying the role of J. Paul Getty’s daughter-in-law leaves you hypnotized with yet another scintillating rendition. She was born to act and that belief is bolstered when you witness her wear that peculiar accent in the film with such ridiculous ease. Every snivel, sigh, sneer, smirk and snort is clinical. The legend of this diminutive dynamite just keeps growing with each passing cinematic installment.
If she dazzles then her partner in crime, the veteran Canadian Christopher Plummer sizzles! The academy award winner is plain imperious as J.Paul Getty. He takes the role, rinses it, wrings it, dries it, irons it and wears it and gives the dry cleaners a complex while he is at it!. Such is the mastery of this doyen thespian that he eclipses the frame with his mere presence. When Williams and Plummer share the screen sparks fly and if I may say so Plummer’s are flashier on occasion!
The supporting cast is led by Mark Wahlberg who despite his obvious histrionic limitations acquits himself rather satisfactorily. The Frenchman Romain Duris who is a established name in French cinema makes a loud splash with his part that is sure to attract a lot of eyeballs of the Hollywood’s talent agents going forward.
To sew it up, a rather bizarre plot handled dexterously by a master technician, two superlative acting performances one by a rising star and the other by one who shall most likely get his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame after this is all done and dusted. This film might not gross ‘All the money in the world’ but then that should not stop you from spending your money and watching it.
Till next time have a great time at the cinemas!