Film Review: “Money Monster”

Photo Courtesy of The LA Times
Photo Courtesy of The LA Times

Rating: B-
Directed by: Jodie Foster
Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe
Release Date: May 13, 2016
Rated: R

It is Jodie Foster’s fourth time directing a movie, and the queen of thrillers has provided the audience with a new breathtaking work on Wall Street. Lee Gates (George Clooney), a famous and ostentatious financial television host, is taken hostage by desperate, broke investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) live on TV. Budwell threatens to kill Gates and demands an explanation for the investment firm Ibis’s $800-million loss in minutes. Budwell has invested all his money in Ibis and as a result lost everything; Ibis justifies itself and claims that the losses came from a computer glitch. Under the guidance of producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), Gates tries to save his own life while striving to uncover the truth behind Ibis’s lie. This hostage incident leads to the step-by-step discovery of a financial scandal.

The film’s high-level suspense stands out, as the continuous tension keeps you awake and nervous as the story progresses. Since Gates’ show is broadcasting live, people worldwide are paying attention to the incident while it plays out. As such, it places the audience watching “Money Monster” in a position similar to that of the TV viewers inside the movie. This allows both audiences to fully immerse themselves in the story and strengthens the effect of the thriller itself — the story no longer feels like a fiction, but a real event that is actually happening in New York. Moreover, the light-heartedness “Money Monster” creates through humorous dialogue and Clooney’s unusually facetious performance balances the anxiety the real-time thriller triggers.

Foster attempts to present a satire that portrays the dark side of human nature and reveals the money-oriented culture in this world, criticizing immoral approaches to making profits by depicting violent tensions between classes. Yet, the film does not succeed in creating a mind-blowing work that delves deep into the nature of financial scandals. Instead, it provides a cliche storyline in which the working class is abused by the upper class. One refreshing element, however, might be Lee Gates’ process of changing and learning from the unexpected hostage incident. Though he understands that his life is at stake, he becomes more humane and cooperative towards Budwell as the secret of Ibis is revealed. One cannot say whether this sudden change is realistic, but it does demonstrate how the film conveys the idea that the working class’s voice needs to be respected and heard.

To some extent, suspense and humor make up for the superficial story that lacks anything profound. Still, “Money Monster” is more of a clever work that entertains than a groundbreaking movie made to reveal something deep about the financial world.

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