‘Money Monster’ – Suspenseful financial thriller keeps audience engaged

Jack O'Connell (left) and George Clooney appear in a scene from Jodie Foster's "Money Monster." (AP)

Greed and corruption define the set of the modern stage in “Money Monster,” a captivating financial thriller directed by Jodie Foster. George Clooney stars as a charismatic financial television host who is put in a dangerous spotlight when an irate investor, hoping to confront a crooked CEO scheduled to be on the show, takes him hostage during a live broadcast.

Timothy Hogg

Timothy Hogg

For Lee Gates (Clooney), it’s any typical day as he prepares to host his Wall Street news show, Money Monster. But his program is soon interrupted by Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), who has lost everything in the stock market while following Lee’s advice. Kyle wants answers, and he takes Lee hostage at gunpoint and forces him to wear an explosive vest. As the situation escalates on live television, Lee and his director, Patty (Julia Roberts), must keep Kyle calm, keep the New York City police at bay, and unravel an investment conspiracy involving a missing sum of $800 million.

For audiences, financial movies detailing the corruption and greed of Wall Street are hardly a novel concept. “Money Monster” takes this old, well-known premise and combines it with a hostage situation to shine a light on the financial meltdown, questioning what factors could contribute to or cause a loss of investment capital. Foster successfully frames this narrative through the lens of a television studio, in a situation that is ripe for both satire and self-reflection on the media.

Telling most of the story though the studio set creates a contrast between the real world, and the way the world is framed. It is in the middle of these two boundaries that the filmmakers have placed the audience, a group of varying characters struggle to make sense of their situation. The resulting story is relatable, if not somewhat predictable; the characters seem aware of the ultimate resolution, but the writers have applied several twists to keep the audience guessing, spinning expectations into scenes of surprise and suspense. Most of the characters are portrayed admirably, allowing the audience to feel their emotion and the stress brewing within the conflict.

Clooney plays his part with confidence, O’Connell seems genuinely conflicted and stressed, but Roberts is of particular note. Her character – the director, Patty – combines some old character traits within a quest of personal redemption and discovery. As a direct result, these well-structured plot elements allow the film to rise above its faults; sometimes the story takes a weird turn, or minor characters don’t feel invested. The film’s true strength lies not in its message of corruption, but of the detached and cold, calculated, self-absorbed way we observe the modern world.

“Money Monster” from director Jodie Foster is an engaging financial thriller that keeps the audience hooked with a series of twists and turns amid an otherwise wooden story. The film’s writing contains enough moments that do the opposite of what one expects, and the acting talents of Clooney, Roberts, and O’Connell are powerful enough to invest viewers in a world of greed and corruption, seeking reconciliation through answers.

My grade: 7 out of 10 stars.

(Timothy Hogg is a copy editor for The Derrick./The News-Herald. He has a minor in film and media studies from Slippery Rock University. Readers may contact him by email at timothyhogg.thederrick@gmail.com.)