Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) is a little more than upset, he invested everything he had, $60,000, and lost it all in a day due to a so called computer glitche in Ibis Clear Capital’s software and he is about to take matters into his own hands. Lee Gates (George Clooney) is an investment analyst on a CNBC type network, think Anderson Cooper Meets Flava Flav, who has been recommending his viewers buy up Ibis stock as quickly as they can. Patty Fen (Julia Roberts) is Lee’s long time producer, who knows him better than he knows himself, and is often having to reign him in while always being on her toes because he never sticks to the copy or shares his game plan for the days episode. While the two are getting ready for their live show, “Money Monster”, Patty lets Lee know that his good friend and Ibis CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West), was nowhere to be found and instead had sent over “Ibis PR lady” (as Lee sarcastically calls her) Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe) to somehow spin a tale that explains how $800 million disappeared in not a week, not a day, literally a blink of an eye. But that’s not the only surprise Lee Gates is going to get on this episode. What starts off as a normal day in the newsroom instantly gets hijacked, quite literally, when Kyle Budwell sneaks on to the set and takes Gates hostage on live TV making him wear a vest full of explosives and not allowing them to take the show off the air.
Read more after the Trailer.
Since the fall of the stock exchange, Hollywood has taken to telling the many stories of Wall Street so it’s no surprise to see another financial thriller hitting theatres after the success of films like THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, THE BIG SHORT and 99 HOMES. Director Jodie Foster does a tremendous job keeping the film moving at a quick pace without losing information or interest. Foster’s ability to bring out strong performances doesn’t stop with the leads but carries through the entire cast including Caitriona Balfe’s determined Diane, Dominic West’s sleazy Walt, Lenny Venito’s lovable and loyal camera operator and Giancarlo Esposito as the NYPD’s hostage crisis commander. Foster and writers Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf keep the pace fast, throw several twists and give each character purpose leaving on-one underused. They get the frantic energy of live TV right while also capturing the intimacy of a crew working so closely together undoubtedly due to the help of cinematographer Matthew Libatique.
Clooney nails both the charisma and smug nature of Lee Gates who uses crazy graphics, loud sound effects and even back up dancers during segments of the show to get his viewers excited about what he has to say. He brings a Jim Cramer type character to life in a fun and Coenesque way. As we have seen many times before, the chemistry between Clooney and Roberts is undeniable and partly which makes much of the film work seeing as the two spend minimal time together on-screen yet solely rely on each other to get through this daunting experience. Roberts is perfection taking on Patty the voice of reason and coolness to Gates’ crazy. Together the two work seamlessly, Patty keeping Lee calm and the cops at bay all while trying to produce the show and have some sort of control of whatever she can and Lee trying to keep Kyle calm and finding out what he can do to help keep everyone alive.
With the majority of the film taking place on the set of a live TV show it gives a claustrophobic feel that works well with the story and helps raise the stakes. While it is set to present day, there is a retro feel to it that makes even more interesting. The tension is built steadily, and viewers are kept on their toes with moments full of twists and turns you are not expecting. There are many moving parts, but yet when Gates is shown in the studio with Kyle you can’t help but hold your breath feeling like you are right there beside him. The third act takes the viewers to the streets of Manhattan for the film’s final showdown.
I don’t want to tell you too much; I want you to experience the thrill ride as I did. I think what makes MONEY MONSTER work for me outside of it’s outstanding performances, was that it took a different approach to the financial thriller than we have seen in the past, it changed it’s focus from the lion to the lamb, from the companies to the blue collar investor. It is part media satire, part hostage thriller; the stakes are high, and the tension is built, but there is more comedy than one would expect from a thriller which could leave some viewers feeling unsatisfied. I enjoyed the mix of drama, comedy, and thrill, it would have been a completely different film without the jokes and I think I would enjoy both of them because of the story at it’s core. I loved seeing George Clooney return to the kind of character I would find in a Coen Brothers film, outrageous, layered and smart. The characters are fleshed out enough that you care about what happens to them, you are invested, it makes the arcs and pains more satisfying. MONEY MONSTER is a fun ride with great performances that I would certainly put my money on, at the end of the film I felt as if it where asking me a question, making me think about media, how it portrays things and how we get sucked in and about corruption. Kudos to Foster for turning the camera right back at her audience and making us do a little work in the end.
MONEY MONSTER in theaters now