‘I’ ON CULTURE
The new Jodie Foster film Money Monster is a rarity these days. It is taut, interesting, and moves quickly. Foster was smart enough to keep the movie relatively short (an hour and 40 minutes in an era of two-and-a-half-hour films) so that there are few down times. With a really good cast, this is a movie to see, particularly if you are an intelligent adult.
Lee Gates (George Clooney) runs a wild investment advice show on the “Financial News Network” called, not surprisingly, “Money Monster.” The show is a great parody of several shows on CNBC. He comes on in costume, has dancers with him and then touts different stocks. Some folks call him the money monster. He is rich and has dozens of people begging to talk to him.
But one night, a young man, Kyle (Jack O’Connell), intrudes onto the set with a gun and an explosive vest he puts on Gates with a “dead man’s trigger,” one that will go off if he takes his finger off it, in his hand, meaning that the bomb would trigger if the police shot him.
Kyle has lost his life savings by investing in IBIS Global Capital, a firm that Gates had touted as a sure thing. The day before these events took place, a “computer glitch in the algorithm” had led to an $800 million loss and the stock price had collapsed. Kyle demanded an explanation.
The director of the show, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), calls the police and keeps Kyle and Gates on the air.
And so the circus begins. Gates has no idea why the computer had the glitch but, trying to stay alive, he tries to get some answers. The public relations person from IBIS, Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), is less than helpful, and the head of the company, Walt Camby (Dominic West), is “somewhere in the air” in a private jet and not available. Things very quickly go wrong.
No one quite understands what the glitch was, the police are planning ways to intervene that seem both reasonable and nuts, and Kyle’s pregnant girlfriend (Emily Meade) is, at best, counterproductive. Fenn does her best to find out what happened to create the glitch as Camby arrives in New York.
And then things go even crazier as Kyle and Gates wind up walking through the Wall Street area followed by dozens of cops pointing rifles. At that point, New York City people join in the fun. It all ends with a confrontation.
There is a wonderful sense of controlled chaos throughout. Roberts plays Patty, the one steady rock that works through the process of getting information to save Gates’ life, even though she had plans to leave her job because of the way he treated her. It is her best performance in years. There are no cutesy bits for her; she is just a really smart, cool woman.
Clooney gives a bravura performance. He is perfect as the smug sleaze in the beginning, but he masterfully manages to become far more sympathetic as events unfold, and his performance makes those changes seem natural. O’Connell is also excellent with his almost out-of-control rage that somehow, at times, seems sweet.
The supporting cast is also excellent. Balfe manages to handle the ambiguous nature of her role quite well. Christopher Denham as the put-upon producer provides comic relief. Giancarlo Esposito does his usual really good job as the head of the police, and Emily Meade in her one short scene is hilariously furious.
Although the movie is an indictment of corruption in the business world, it provides a message about our dependence on computers. We hear about algorithms and glitches and assume that someone, somehow, will fix them. We have no idea who is actually watching for mistakes. Too often, those with a lot of power can use them to hurt us and, in many cases, we just never know. How many of us actually know what an algorithm does?
Foster has directed a really good film. There were some plot holes and a few contradictions, yet the combination of interesting ideas, possible violence, mixed with occasional humor, all holds together really well.
If you want a movie without superheroes, whether human, mutants or turtles, this is a good one to see.