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Rage against the investment machine

Jodie Foster’s Money Monster points its barrel at both Wall Street and the way we turn news into entertainment

Kim Taylor-Foster

Reporter:

Kim Taylor-Foster

Rage against the investment machine

Money Monster (15)
Running time 1hr 38mins
Rating: ****

OF late, Hollywood has been pre-occupied with righting societal wrongs and championing the little guy – particularly where the world of finance is concerned. Money Monster is the latest to tackle the money-grabbing arena of investment banking and although it may not make its point(s) as cacophonously or as effectively as this year’s The Big Short, it’s the better film. Where Adam McKay’s surprise Oscar contender is a fancies-itself, messy, sometimes impenetrable self-indulgence, Jodie Foster’s political and social satire artfully points its barrel at both Wall Street and the way we turn news – and everything – into entertainment. It delves into the desire to broadcast the minutiae of our lives and ramp up viewing figures, hits and clicks. It may not say anything new, but what it does say it says smartly.

Slyly cloaking itself in standard Hollywood movie clothing – formula-driven action thriller – it sticks to the conventions of its form at the same time as drawing attention to itself, highlighting the fact that we love to consume the world through the lens of entertainment. All very meta.

So what’s the plot? Well, George Clooney is Lee Gates – a financial markets expert with his own daily live TV show dishing out money advice. Bursting into the studio with a couple of underdressed dancing girls, he’s a bit of a loose cannon, frequently going off-script and creating headaches for his weary director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts). Today, though, isn’t his day. Today
is the day that a disgruntled viewer who followed his advice and sunk his entire $60k inheritance into a bad investment fights back. Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) sneaks into the studio, armed with a gun and a bomb, and takes Gates hostage in front of the cameras. But as the film starts to build sympathy for Kyle, we begin to see there’s more to the story.

On the surface, Money Monster is a tautly-directed thriller that never sags. With the balance of humour satire just right, Foster has crafted a deceptively accomplished film. Brilliance abounds – albeit understated – and not just in the way the film is assembled. Clooney’s performance is among his very best – you’ve rarely seen an actor portray a TV host more authentically – he’s endlessly credible, blending in Stanley Tucci’s exaggerated turn as the host in The Hunger Games in measured amounts to create something that we entirely buy into. He reveals layers to his talents that you may not have realised existed.

With good, meaty roles for both Julia Roberts and Catriona Balfe, and Dominic West in a bid for Bond-villain glory, there’s an equal mix of entertainment, quality and worthiness to Jodie Foster’s latest directorial effort.

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