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George Clooney and Jack O'Connell in MONEY MONSTER

The is the kind of movie that makes you mad, then afraid, and then mad again. Like a character tells us early on in the movie, once it’s in the banks, we don’t really know where our money is. But this is not a movie that is working through the mechanics of the financial markets, instead, it offers us a glimpse of the human cost of the games that are being played at the high stakes tables in the financial world.

If you’ve seen a trailer for Money Monster you know what the movie is about: George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a television host who offers stock advice in a flashy and entertaining manner. While he is on air, a young man called Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) breaks into the studio and holds everyone hostage. The reason he is doing so is because a major financial fund just lost a lot of money and all his life savings were part of the money that disappeared.  He wants answers from Walt Camby (Dominic West), the CEO of that fund, about how 800 million dollars just went poof in one day. Julia Roberts plays the director of the TV show as well as the voice in Gates’s ear that keeps him calm when he is on the verge of freaking out.

Now movies like this, set primarily in a single location, tend to sag after the initial excitement has worn off. But director Jodie Foster, working off a script by Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore & Jim Kouf, is able to keep the action moving right along so that we are never allowed to play our own version of ‘They Should Have Done…’ instead of watching whatever it is the filmmakers did do with the narrative.

The strength of this movie is in the performances the director has been able to extract from George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell. Caitriona Balfe does a very good job in the smaller part she has, and the film features some clever choices in the storytelling that allows us to assume a certain scene is going to play out one way before it ends up completely different from how most scenes like it have been played before.

For a movie this grim and this tense – and it is both of those things – the filmmakers also found some space for humour. There are several darkly funny moments in this movie and they serve very well to humanize the key characters so that we are forced to care about what happens to them when the moment of reckoning comes.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, try it out. For me it was the type of movie I’d check out again to see what they did that made it so effective.