Money Monster: A Tense and Compelling Thriller (Blu-ray)


The Film:

It has been rather fascinating to watch Jodie Foster’s career develop from that of an accomplished, two-time Academy Award-winning actress to that of a pretty successful director. After directing two well-received films in the 90s (“Little Man Tate” and “Home for the Holidays”), it took her a while to get back behind the camera, but she eventually did with the somewhat divisive “The Beaver,” which she starred in alongside Mel Gibson. However, she continued on to direct episodes of the critically-acclaimed shows “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” This brings us to her latest feature, “Money Monster,” a tense story that not only deals with issues that are still hot topics, but one that also puts Foster’s directorial abilities to the ultimate test.

Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the host of a financial advice television show called “Money Monster,” a show where he basically discusses the stock market and makes picks that he thinks are good investments. The day’s show is going off without much of a hitch, that is, until a gunman storms the stage and takes Lee hostage, forcing him to strap a bomb to himself in the process. We learn that the gunman, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), is angry because he lost all of his money in a recent stock that Lee recommended, one that took a terrible dive thanks to a supposed computer glitch. However, Kyle isn’t buying that explanation, forcing Lee and his director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), to dig for the truth and find some real answers. As it turns out, there just might be something more going on behind the scenes of the company’s recent stock plummet than originally thought.

“Money Monster” is the kind of film that you just kind of get caught up in as it happens. From the start, we’re lured in with this bizarre financial program that uses bells and whistles to grab their viewers’ attention (not completely unlike some similar programs out there), but it goes even further when the unexpected hostage situation takes place. From then on, we are treated to a story that is continually tense as we watch and see if Lee and his crew are going to be blown up, shot, or somehow get out of this crazy situation alive.

But wait, there’s more. Not only is the situation in the studio keeping us glued to the screen, along with the millions of live viewers watching the program, but so is the other half of the story in which a conspiracy within the company whose stock dropped is uncovered. It’s one of those films where you’re pretty much sitting on the edge of your seat as it races forward, wondering how everything will turn out in the end and what the real explanation behind the crash is. It may not be able to keep up the high tension level as it heads into its third act, when our main characters venture outside of the studio, but what we get is still a satisfactory climax and conclusion in which the character dynamics get shaken up a little.

Turning now to the technical side of the film, we find a rather complex project made up of more pieces than normal, primarily due to the fact that we are watching a lot of the film as a live television show being shot from multiple angles. I mentioned earlier how this would be quite the test for director Jodie Foster, but she passes it with flying colors. With the help of Oscar-nominated cinematographer Matthew Libatique (“Black Swan”) and Oscar-nominated film editor Matt Chesse (“Finding Neverland”), everything comes together remarkably well to help keep the tension flowing for a vast majority of the film. If anything, “Money Monster” just goes to show that Foster is becoming more and more comfortable behind the camera, for to coordinate the complexity of such a film does indeed take a high level of skill.

Combine that with strong performances from George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O’Connell, and you have a compelling, tension-filled film that is very well made. Sometimes all it takes is a narrative with a high-stress situation to get you hooked right away, and with even more going on behind the scenes, it only continues to hold your attention. Again, the third act loses a little of that when the narrative shifts, but there’s no doubt that it’s still enough to keep you engaged right up to the end, and with everything else that it does so well, that makes for more than enough reasons to give this entertaining thriller a chance.

Video/Audio:

“Money Monster” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The picture is perfectly clear and sharp throughout the entire film without a hint of fuzziness to be seen even in the darkest of scenes. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is equally fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue and score in excellent quality. Overall, the film has been given top-notch treatment, ensuring the best experience possible.

Special Features:

Deleted Scenes (2 Minutes): Three deleted scenes that were easily cut from the film.

George Clooney: The Money Man (5 Minutes): A brief featurette that focuses on George Clooney and his character Lee Gates.

Inside the Pressure Cooker (10 Minutes): An interesting featurette that goes behind the scenes of the making of the film.

Analysis of a Scene: The Showdown (7 Minutes): A featurette that provides an intriguing look behind the scenes at the film’s climax.

“What Makes the World Go ‘Round (Money!)” Music Video (3 Minutes): An easily skippable music video.

Conclusion:

With a tense narrative, an excellent ensemble, and impressive direction from Jodie Foster, “Money Monster” is a compelling and exciting thriller that grabs you from the start and hardly slows down until the very end. It’s not perfect by any means, especially when it comes to its third act, but it remains a highly-entertaining film that will have you on the edge of your seat for almost all of its brief 90-minute runtime.

Score: 3.5/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

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