Directed by Jodie Foster
When George Clooney is at his best, few can match his charisma. His character here, Lee Gates, is a TV show host that reports on the economy and the stock market. He has the gift of the gab, turning what would otherwise be a drab show into entertainment that many people watch. It doesn’t take long for this film to sink its hooks in, as soon into the film an unexpected arrival comes onto the set with a gun, and demands Lee to put on a vest covered with explosives. Holding the detonator with his thumb, Kyle can’t be shot or there will be a very large bang.
With his director (Julia Roberts) in his ear all the way, Lee begins to engage with Kyle, who has lost money because of a recommendation Lee had made. 800 million dollars has gone missing, causing economic grief for many more people than Kyle, and Lee doesn’t have an answer. The company responsible for the massive loss of money blames the crisis on a ‘computer glitch’, which angers Kyle, who wants a real explanation. Other than referring to a glitch, the company is limited to saying simply, “we don’t know how it happened.”
Kyle says himself that he does not plan on walking out of the building alive. Events quickly escalate, and the story takes on many fun and unexpected twists. The director, despite her differences with Lee, helps him through the tough situation, and it is clear that their relationship has strengthened, with both having changed drastically as people. The character arcs in this film are very well executed.
With Kyle as the main attraction, the film juggles a few sub-plots that all meet neatly. These include Korean computer wizards, to Dutch stoners who like to hack in their spare time, to the company that has caused this to happen by losing 800 million dollars.
Money Monster also shows how hard it is to understand economics, which allows people like Lee to host television shows that help people make decisions about their money. Additionally, Lee’s charisma is a perfect display of the media manipulating its viewers. His performances lead people to believe what he is saying as fact, which is how many commercial television shows operate. This is what angers Kyle the most. Not the money he has lost, but the principal of how Lee acts, how the media acts, how so many people have been screwed.
Apart from some very implausible (but entertaining) scenarios, the film plays out in ways that subvert most genre tropes to create a thrilling experience that will have viewers leaning forwards. Surprising for a film about economics, yes, but given how quickly this film kicks off, that tension is sustained for most of the film.
For all the stereotypes it avoids, it unfortunately falls short during a few very key scenes. It is surprisingly funny and tense at the same time, but it also suffers from a very unsubtle attitude and bias, as well as scenes that just simply would not happen in the real world. This isn’t the real world though, and though it has flaws, it is an entertaining watch that motors through the story; a film has never felt so short. When Clooney is focused he can be one of the best actors to watch, and this is the case here. Jack O’Connell is also very convincing as the mentally unstable Kyle. Not a perfect film, but a damned entertaining one.
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