Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a Wall Street guru who picks hot stocks as host of the television show “Money Monster.” Suddenly, during a live broadcast, disgruntled investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) storms onto the set and takes Gates hostage. He tells Lee that he lost everything on one of his tips. As Gates tries to plead with Kyle, he’s also using an earpiece to communicate with his longtime producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) in the control room. Together, they must figure out a way to defuse the situation and disarm the angry young man.
One thing this film is definitely not lacking in star power featuring the likes of George Clooney and Julia Roberts and is also directed by Jodie Foster. If that wasn’t enough (for me it is and should be for anyone) it also comes to us at a opportune time with a lot of the world still under financial crisis. This talk started with The Big Short and is still the case now. So people may find themselves relating to the man who stormed the financial show which could be one of its main drawing points. Some may want to see so called financial “talking heads” getting their comeuppance.
The film is not a particularly long film, clocking in at 98 minutes, so it doesn’t waste any time and goes right into the main plot. There we are introduced to the dynamic between Gates and Fenn. They had great chemistry here and probably would not have worked as well if they weren’t either Clooney or Roberts. Their relationship felt real and believable and they worked very well off of each other and it was evident that they cared greatly for one another. This had to be the case since the bulk of the film consists of them speaking to each other via an earpiece from a control room. Despite the physical distance, they always seemed apart.
The third part of the trio here was the disgruntled investor named Kyle Budwell (O’Connell). He arrived a little too abruptly here which also speaks to the film’s short running time. He could have been fleshed out a little more to give more weight to his motives here but that is just a minor gripe. What we got was still clear enough but it could have gone further. It was obvious how angry he was with Gates and the system as a whole but since he wasn’t fleshed out, we never really got a true sense of how this hurt him personally. Despite that, he is still came off as very likeable and people could easily relate to him for reasons I previously mentioned.
Not only did Clooney and Roberts have great chemistry, Clooney and O’Connell had great chemistry as well. This was also vital to the film as Gates and Budwell spent a bulk of the film together. Gates starts off as an arrogant blowhard but wains away as his life becomes in danger. This character progression was compelling to watch. He went from just trying to save his own life to really caring for Budwell and becoming more invested in his search for answers which led to their eventual bond. This also led Gates to look within himself and the character he depicts on television and how it may be perceived. Budwell never waned in his search for answers as nothing was ever good enough which forced the film to dig further and further which made the film interesting to watch.
Of course we all know how it was going to end but the film still remained very watchable as the film was full of suspense and intrigue while trying to find the truth. The studio scenes were very tense and suspenseful as Budwell’s motives were not clear at first and we were unaware of the lengths he would go in his search for answers. This was heightened by Clooney, Roberts, and O’Connell. Don’t expect this film to explain the financial crisis as a whole since the film never goes into it with too much depth. The amount of progress in their investigation may seem a little unrealistic but was okay based on the length of the film but could have been better with more time. While the film has a lot of serious moments, it also has some lighter moments which helped to make things more grounded.
What could have ended up just okay and cliche was elevated by the three lead performances of Clooney, Roberts, and O’Connell. Clooney was great here bringing a lot of charm and charisma to Gates, playing a larger-than-life character but is also vulnerable once he starts to loose these layers. Roberts does not have much to do here as the producer who tries to remain in control of the situation while caring about all the people around her. O’Connell did a great job at showing us his character’s anger and frustration while still managing to be likeable and relatable.
Overall, this was a great, suspenseful film led by great performances but still doesn’t go as far as it could have.