When True Story’s first official trailer was released to the internet some months ago, many after watching it, were colossally excited but at the same time a little skeptical about the upcoming fact-based flick. Some subconsciously believed that Jonah Hill and James Franco’s presence hindered the potential of the film – people are still ignoring the multiple Academy Award/Golden Globe nominations the pair have racked up between them but then instantly remember films such as Superbad, Pineapple Express and This is the End. Nonetheless, anticipation was driving strong and true.
Christian Longo, a man on the FBI’s most wanted list for murdering his wife and three children in Oregon, hides in Mexico under the identity of Michael Finkel, a journalist, before being captured. Anxious but at the same time, a little intrigued by this, Finkel regularly visits the then apprehended Longo in prison where an ambiguously unorthodox relationship is formed leading up to the alleged killer’s trial.
The film’s major fault is that it does not seem to know its own identity – is it a cat and mouse thriller (which the trailer suggested)? a courtroom drama? a gritty mystery? The film transitions back and forth, from genre and theme to the next, rather than nailing a comprehensively single one down. Allegorically, the film is about the parallels between disgraced journalist Finkel and alleged family murderer Longo, but it’s difficult for audiences to allow themselves to be absorbed into this particular inner-meaning when the film persists on stone-stepping from one element to the next.
True Story is not a bland affair, it is utterly absorbing, immersive and at times touching. Maybe it’s not what people expected based on the trailer or the presence of the two protagonists, but the disturbingly poetic dialogue shared between them in the well-thought-out, slow-paced sequences are superbly carried out by screenwriter David Kajganich and director Rupert Goold. If anything, the film is about the dramatical relationship between Finkel and Longo – the disgust, borderline friendship, hatred, nearing similarities and eventually metaphoric parallels that enable both to question how overlapping their shattered pasts are. Maybe this isn’t electrifying enough for some.
With an Oscar-nominated Felicity Jones backing them, Franco and Hill’s subtle performances in True Story are sublime, both indicating how dramatically gifted they are, if this wasn’t evident already. Franko’s Longo is instantly grabbing as his enigmatic, unpredictable persona constantly keeps Finkel and the audience in particular on edge. Hill’s Finkel goes through a journey of altering emotions, and the double Oscar-nominee articulates these fluently.
Even when the film does momentarily settle down on a specific genre or theme, some would still find it too slow to embrace, which is puzzling, as True Story does provide some of the more subtly touching, unnerving and enjoyable content audiences will, or should’ve seen at the cinema in 2015 so far. Not to mention the leads’ performances – if you want to see two ‘funny’ guys illustrate how much quality acting they possess, go watch True Story.