The concept of a smart political thriller should be a dominant form especially in these times of whistleblowers, terrorism, the growing gaps between the rich and poor. For whatever reason they are becoming rarer and rarer but Jodie Foster’s latest film Money Monster is a rarity and has a lot to say about our society. It also has a A-Star cast with George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Donnell.
It’s a fictional tale which has comes out of the financial meltdown of 2008 which turned into a recession which we are still in somewhat. Clooney plays a TV Show host Lee Gates who is one of those financial expert guys who tells you who to invest it and who not too. The day before he tells people to invest in IBIS and Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) invests all his life savings. IBIS has crashed making all investors lose everything including Kyle so in his anger he sneaks into the show as a deliveryman and takes Gates hostage and straps a vest full of explosives on the host. This is all on live TV and there is stand-off by the police and hostage taker however the IBIS crash may have a more sinister edge.
The film certainly comes a current drop of films which invoke the kind of the films made in the ’70s. This films tend to be made by Hollywood filmmakers who are sick and tired of the big Superhero films which dominate the studio system. It draws heavily on the work of Sidney Lumet especially his increasingly prophetic Network and his blackly comedic heist film Dog Day Afternoon. Like both of those films it’s about media manipulation of a dangerous incident which plays itself out on life TV.
Clooney is having a blast playing the arrogant TV host who treats everyone like crap around him and his introduction is spot on parody of the absurdly that is common place on US television. There is really no actor who can play somebody who is both a bit slimy but in the end you root for by the end like Clooney. Julia Roberts gives her finest performance in well over a decade as the TV director Patty Fenn who calms everybody in the situation. Let’s hope she gets more meaty roles in the future because despite all those romcoms she has done she is a damn fine actress.
Jack O’Connell who made a splash a few years ago in the absurdly overrated Starred Up gives a powerhouse performance as Kyle. His American accent is spot on and he has a physical menace which is rare in young American actors but seems more common in the newer crop of young British actors like O’Connell and Tom Hardy. Giancarlo Esposito who since Breaking Bad revitalised his career been getting more work has a small but important role as the police captain. Dominic West plays the sleazy ceo of IBIS to a tea. The film also expertly uses real life news personalities and notably has a cameo by Cenk Uygur who is the host of the progressive online news show The Young Turks.
The film is kind of a Dog Day Afternoon for the Goldman Sachs generation. It might be only skin deep when it comes to its politics and the corruption by banks to manipulate the our politicans and media. However it’s a strong indictment of practices that still go on despite the recession and the government bail out, if it was a tickling bomb to explode then they have only extended the detonator. It’s also just a rock solid thriller told in real life which runs at a break neck speed of 99 minutes. The disc includes a series of short featurettes and some deleted scenes.