Jodie Foster's Money Monster tells the story of a TV investment expert Lee Gates (George Clooney) whose tip to buy shares in a company called Ibis costs his viewers millions when a glitch in their system causes a price crash. When one of those viewers – Kyle (Jack O’Conell), who invested and lost everything – enters the studio with a gun, a tense game is played out on live TV. Only Lee's producer Patty (Julia Roberts) can help him.
Money Monster is part hostage story and part journalistic investigation, as Patty and her team try to figure out how to get out of the sticky situation they find themselves in. When they soon realise that something smells fishy, they must find out what really happened at Ibis, all played out in real time. The film is often funny, the colours are bright, Clooney is his charming self, and Roberts gives a warm performance. In other words, this doesn’t feel quite like your normal thriller.
In fact, when you look a little deeper than appearances, the film feels like it’s more of a comment on social currents and modern times. Lee Gates is a huge personality, telling the public how to invest their money, and dancing around like a motivational speaker. And while he is loaded, what Kyle points out is that his viewers are not. They can’t afford to lose like he can, but often end up being the losers in the money game, where their minimum wage and lack of access to education means that they can only ever dream of fame and fortune. The film is littered with references to memes, social media, and the way that Kyle feels like he has to take a gun to be powerful and be on TV to be heard. The divide between the losers and the famous is wide, but what Gates comes to realise is that he’s also kind of a loser, being used to peddle the wares of men who don’t play by the rules and never get punished.
The whole film feels larger than life. It plays like a publicity stunt, and for some reason that really works in its favour. It’s not preaching an agenda at you, though someone clearly doesn’t like bankers and stockbrokers, but it’s trying to do more than just be about a hostage and a kidnapper. The little scenes with New Yorkers coming together to watch, but also choosing not to get involved, are where you’ll see the most cynical comments on modern life, with one fussball player returning to his game the second the tension of the kidnapping drops. And as Patty says to Lee, jokingly, at the end of the film, how will they top that in next weeks broadcast?