Money Monster (2016)

Money Monster

With George Clooney and Julia Roberts, financial media gurus come under the gun in Jodie Foster’s star-studded Money Monster.

In The Stocks

by Alexa Dalby

Money Monster

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Jodie Foster’s Money Monster is an all-bells-and-whistles mixture of thriller and satire with a couple of Hollywood’s biggest stars – George Clooney and Julia Roberts centre stage to boot. Taking place in real time, it’s a hostage situation at a cable television station. As the finance show is going out live, its host Lee Gates (Clooney) is taken hostage by a desperate blue-collar worker, delivery driver Kyle Budwell (British actor Jack O’Connell, Starred Up, in his first American role) who has lost his entire savings on one of Gates’ recommendations. Roberts is his unflappable director in the gallery, with her voice in his ear on talkback.

Gates is the type of lowest-common-denominator host who does ridiculous dance routines and uses over-the-top special effects to make the stock markets easy to understand for the average punter. He’s surprised that anyone would take his tips seriously. However, Budwell fits him with a suicide vest and threatens to detonate it, if he can’t get the real answer as to why the stock he believes he was advised to invest in – Ibis – suddenly failed. With the stock market running on algorithms, it turns out that nobody knows what a ‘computer glitch’ (that they glibly blame the fall on) actually means. The rest of the film is a race against time to uncover the truth and save Gates’ life. Police hostage specialists and snipers are brought in and also Budwell’s girlfriend, who, against all expectations, makes things hilariously worse.

Clooney is effortless, perfect casting, veering between vanity and vulnerability, riding the changing dynamics of his relationship with his captor, finally joining forces with him to do some real journalism and track down the truth. “It’s closer to characters I’ve played in Coen Brothers movies,” Clooney said at the press conference at Cannes after the film’s screening. “You think you’re the smartest person in the room until you realise you’re the stupidest.” The film also stars a cool Dominic West as the boss of Ibis.

Although Foster pulls out all the stops, suspense is somehow lacking after the initial set-up. Maybe you assume that a star like Clooney is going to make it to the end of the film. Money Monster doesn’t really tell us anything insightful about the financial markets in the way that The Big Short did, for example, and the final revelation is somewhat underwhelming. But, even though its premise is rather obvious, that doesn’t mean it’s not a rather well-made and entertaining film.

Money Monster is now showing at the Cannes Film Festival

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