Film Review | Money Monster (2016)

money monster film review lee gates george clooney patty fern julia roberts jack o'connell jodie foster 2016 thriller poster hd dominic west

So what the hell kind of show are we going to do next week?

I happened to watch this movie on the plane recently – it’s not, to be honest, something I would have necessarily sought out myself had I not been on the plane. Equally, though, it had an interesting premise, a nice runtime (99 minutes), and also George Clooney, who I’m quite fond of. So it’s not like it had nothing going for it.

The movie is about a hostage scenario that unfolds during a television broadcast; the poster for the movie, pictured above, doesn’t really represent this very well. George Clooney is playing Lee Gates, a television presenter who’s pitched somewhere between Craig Ferguson and Dr. Phil – he’s the frontman for a program that’s about stocks and investment, and gives advice on what to buy, what to sell, so on and so forth. Money Monster, also the name of Gates’ television show, picks up the day after a company experiences particularly bad stock crash – a company that Gates had recently quite publically endorsed, telling everyone they should invest in it. A particularly angry viewer, Kyle (Jack O’Connell) sneaks onto the set with a gun, and then the hostage situation begins. The television producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), has to co-ordinate the situation to keep Gates alive, which is the source of much of our tension.

That’s the basic premise, although the movie is admittedly a little more complicated than that; there’s a running subplot throughout about finding out just why exactly the company experienced the stock crash that it did, which is actually a nice little accompanying mystery alongside the main thriller aspects. That, I assume, is where the “Not every conspiracy is a theory” tagline comes from, although I think that probably overstates the importance of that aspect.

Primarily, this movie is a vehicle for Clooney to just be quite charming; a lot of the movie revolves around his character interacting with Kyle, the gunman, and trying to stall and stay alive longer. It’s not just his charisma that matters, though, as we begin to peel back the layers of Lee Gates and realise that despite his success in life, his abrasive nature hides someone who’s actually quite miserable. It’s not exactly the deepest or most nuanced writing in the world, but it does help to give proceedings a little more depth; without this character arc, I think the whole thing would be a little flat.

Part of Gates’ character arc is defined in terms of his relationship with producer Patty, who was I think my favourite character of the movie; I’m reminded of the old Kubrick quote that the best way to make an audience like a character is to show them doing their job, and doing their job well. Patty absolutely fits into that mould, with Julia Roberts giving a great performance as the extremely competent woman who does, essentially, save the day through her professionalism and aptitude for her job. Over the course of the movie, both her and Clooney’s character come to realise that, despite their difficulties, they do genuinely appreciate one another; I quite liked the fact that the movie positioned them as close friends, as opposed to lovers, which tends to be the standard these days.

It’s not necessarily a complex movie – the theme, or message I suppose, can be quite easily summarised as “capitalism is bad!”. That’s clear enough on the surface, really, but it does permeate the entire movie when you think about it – our (ultimately sympathetic) gunman is motivated by anger at inequality, our true bad guys are crooked businessmen, and the true heroes were our honest working people in the TV studio. It’s fairly simple, but equally, I’m not exactly inclined to criticise a movie that says capitalism is bad, even if other movies say it better.

All of the above – while it did add to my enjoyment of the movie – is largely immaterial, is has to be said. What this movie is, above all else, is an effective thriller. It’s well directed by Jodie Foster, and it’s actually very tense; it had me on the edge of my seat (figuratively speaking, it was quite cramped on the plane) and I was genuinely very excited throughout. It’s very well paced, the actors all give great performances (Jack O’Connell particularly) and it’s quite a lot of fun to watch. I’d definitely recommend it.

Ultimately, Money Monster is very good at doing what it set out to do, and has a lot more going for it besides. I don’t think you could ask a lot more than that.

8/10

Related:

Film Review: Inequality for All (2013)

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