It’s the rare film that keeps me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, but Money Monster is one of those films.
Skillfully directed by Jodie Foster, Money Monster is a high-concept thriller with a unique premise (a TV host is taken hostage live on the air). I won’t reveal anything else because this is the kind of film that’s best enjoyed when you know absolutely nothing about it (even the trailer spoils too much, so try to avoid that if you can). The various surprises coupled with the film’s slick editing keep the momentum moving at all times. Moreover, the script tackles a number of heavy themes including the nature of financial institutions, the role of the media, and the public’s general apathy in today’s world. The fact that the film can juggle so much while still maintaining its pace is a real achievement. Most impressively, Money Monster is FUNNY. In between the life or death stakes, the story packs in a number of laugh-out loud moments that do a welcome job of breaking up the tension.
Last seen together in 2004’s Ocean’s Twelve, George Clooney and Julia Roberts do a flawless job carrying the film with their collective star-power. As a pompous yet likable TV host, Clooney’s charisma is in full force here, and his character undergoes a complex journey over the course of the film. It’s a fantastic fit for the actor, and he adds a whole lot of dimension and layers to what could have been a one-note role. Roberts is equally terrific; she spends 90 percent of the film talking to a headset and bouncing off exactly no one. It’s a true testament to her talent that she can make so much dialogue and urgency come alive through her performance.
As for the supporting cast, Dominic West plays the same sleazy role he’s perfected for two seasons now on The Affair, so it’s a somewhat underwhelming turn. Nevertheless, the film is populated by a number of familiar faces and reliable performers including Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito, Unbroken‘s Jack O’Connell and True Blood‘s Chris Bauer.
It’s also worth noting that director Jodie Foster has obviously learned a thing or two from starring in Panic Room (one of my all-time favorite thrillers). Money Monster is similarly contained to one location, and the film is all the better for it with a sharp narrative focus that’s unburdened by unnecessary and distracting subplots.
Money Monster is a taut and tense thriller with impeccable performances and suspenseful direction. Plus, it thankfully doesn’t overstay its welcome (it’s only 90 minutes long). Highly recommended.