When Ridley Scott was forced to recut his latest movie, All the Money in the World, to excise Kevin Spacey in lieu of Christopher Plummer, he did so quickly and efficiently. Directors whose perspective, style, and taste in subject matter are seemingly the exact opposite of Scott’s, including Ava DuVernay, came out of the woodwork to stare agape at his ability to get the work done. It’s hard to argue this fact in light of these stories about the reshoots but anyone who has kept an eye on Scott’s movies over the years would likely find this an obvious compliment, like telling Christina Aguilera or Arianna Grande that they have a nice voice.
Scott’s technical powers as a filmmaker have never been in question. The Duellists, his debut film, proved that right off the bat and for whatever your issues with their scripts, there is a similar sense of control in Alien: Covenant and All the Money in the World. That his ambitions beyond his technical knowledge have fluctuated over the years is reflective of his fascination with the duel nature of ambition and success. At the heart of many of his stories is the struggle between the precarious nature of risking cohesion for possible greatness and remaining steady and predictable at the risk of growing outdated. His taste in scripts and glowing reputation amongst the big studios has kept him relevant, thankfully, and yet every movie he makes shows a hint of a wilder beast lurking beneath. That’s the David storyline in Alien: Covenant, or Christopher Plummer’s performance in All the Money in the World, or Tim Curry’s scenes in Legend. He’s like Steven Spielberg in that way, an accomplished and influential artist who clearly still has the itch for adventure and the unknown yet is tethered to the comforts and connections that his life affords.
With All the Money in the World opening this weekend, I thought I’d rank Scott’s films from The Duellists to his two 2017 efforts. Enjoy!