Directed by Jodie Foster, Money Monster is a thriller for our times; one that is edge-of-your-seat tense and slyly satirical in equal measures. Most importantly, perhaps, is the film’s central conflict which, rather refreshingly, swaps bearded terrorists from foreign countries with a threat that’s far closer to home than you might imagine: corrupt businessmen.
George Clooney and Julia Roberts – both of whom put in invigorated performances on a par with their best stuff from the 90s – play the respective host and director of the financial television show, Money Monster. When we meet Clooney’s Lee Gates, a financial guru and a bit of a ‘banker’, he’s dressed as a boxer as part of one of the show’s many dance routines. It’s quite clear that, in spite of dealing with the stock market and offering tips to potential investors, Gates and his show aren’t taking things as seriously as they should.
A rude awakening comes in the form of Kyle Budwell – played here by a brilliant Jack O’Connell, who is as watchable as ever – a young man who has lost a lot of money after Money Monster encouraged him to invest his savings into IBIS Global Capitol who, due to a ‘glitch’ in an algorithm, have lost up to $800 million of their investor’s money. Armed with a bomb and a gun, Budwell takes Lee Gates hostage in the hope of getting answers as to how this inexplicable system failure could have happened.
The fact that Budwell appears to be after answers as opposed to money, makes his cause a nobel one which is easy to get behind – even if his actions are a bit extreme. Through his character – who is easily the most interesting one in the film – the script from Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf asks us to question our own predisposition to not only believe what we’re told by the television, but to trivialize even the most serious of circumstances through Vines and Memes.
The fact that Money Monster admirably shines a light on an issue that is steeped in current affairs, as well as a reality that is much more recognisable than most other thrillers made today, means that is altogether fresh, essential and different, whilst maintaining a familiar generic structure. Her best directorial work to date, Foster’s confident direction results in a film that is packed with tension and which, largely due to its excellent three leads, also has some most welcome moments of levity.
At a breezy 90 minutes long, it weirdly feels like a film from twenty-years ago, but one which deals with today’s issues. It is a crowd-pleaser of a film and one of the best thrillers to have been released in recent years. Most people should enjoy it regardless of how much they take to the politics. For me, however, it is the politics of the story that is the film’s biggest selling point and which elevates Money Monster from a simple recommendation to a definite must-see.
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