As director, Jodie Foster has had a rather patchy career that started with Little Man Tate in 1991. This was followed four years later with the comedy Home for the Holidays. Both films received mixed reviews and Foster’s skills as director faltered on several levels. Foster herself may have realised that, at this point in her career, directing was not her forte and subsequently waited 16 years before directing and starring alongside Mel Gibson in The Beaver. Dealing as it does with depression, not an easy subject to tackle, Foster maintains credibility and focus throughout, drawing a compelling, forceful performance from co-star Gibson. Alternating her acting roles Foster went on to direct one episode of Netflix political drama House of Cards and two episodes of Orange is the Only Black.
In her fourth film as director Foster pulls out all the stops to deliver an engaging, well-crafted, tense thriller that deals with corrupt financial trading and how this affects investors. Money Monster is a TV show hosted by charismatic financial wizard Lee Gates (Clooney). Gates clowns around on set before dishing out investing tips to impressionable viewers eager to find the next big deal. When one of his tips goes bad, leading to the loss of $800m in one day, Lee insincerely jokes that some of his investors got their ‘asses-smacked’.
Cue down-on-his-luck Kyle Budwell (O’Connell) who gains access to the set and hijacks the show. Kyle, having lost his life savings investing in Gates dodgy deal, wants answers as to why the supposedly rock-solid deal went bad. Instructing Gates to wear a suicide vest Kyle airs his grievances live on air as producer Patty Fenn (Roberts) struggles to maintain control.
While Roberts and Clooney lead the movie it is an inspired choice to cast rising star Jack O’Connell as Kyle Budwell. Derby born O’Connell came to prominence as James Cook in TV series Skins which led to him being cast as a violent teenager moved to an adult prison in Starred Up proving his survival instincts. Surviving was the theme of his next movie ’71 where, as a young rookie soldier, he is deserted on the streets of war-torn Belfast. In both films O’Connell gives stand-out performances not to be misses and it was no surprise that the actor received the EE Rising Star award at the 2015 BAFTA ceremony.
O’Connell’s Kyle rages against the machine determined to get answers and expose a rigged system. It is a stance he knows could end badly. All he wants are answers. As usual with hostage dramas the police locate and bring in Kyle’s pregnant girlfriend, a plot devise that at first appears cliched develops against all expectation and had the guy next to me yelling ‘Oh, my God’ at the screen! Kyle’s emergence onto crowded sidewalks recalls that of Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon (1975) whilst the media background is reminiscent of, though no match for, Lumet’s Network (1967).
Foster’s film doesn’t doubt that money rules our lives but is an uneasy reminder of how little we know of what goes on behind the scenes. Entertaining and well worth seeing.