The mind is a dangerous place. Power is a dangerous thing. Manipulation is a dangerous game. Fame is a monster. Infamy is forever. TRUE STORY, based on real life events, is the story of former New York Times writer, Mike Finkel. Once highly regarded for gutsy journalism, his choice to fabricate pieces of one story come crashing down on him. Let go from the NYT, he moves back to middle America with his lonely and tremendously supportive wife. Soon after his return, Mike receives a phone call about a man who, when arrested for the murder of his family, claimed to be the NYT reporter, Michael Finkel. Naturally intrigued, he sets up a meeting with now inmate, Christian Longo. Armed with only his wits and a notepad, Finkel agrees to tell Longo’s story, that is, if he can get it.
The question in this film is who’s playing whom? The manipulation of both men walk a razor thin line throughout. Jonah Hill is excellent as Finkel. Thoughtful, gentle, needing to understand why Longo acts as he does. James Franco is downright frightening in this role. The roller coaster ride of this character’s journey is plain to see, with engrossing effort on Franco’s part. These two duel it out in each scene, many times with nothing but eye contact that speaks 1000 words where there are none. This is some serious acting going on here. We all know Hill is perfectly capable of this level of intensity with Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street under his belt. Franco, while I am a huge fan already, really knocks it out of the park as Longo. As an audience member, he is likable and seemingly sincere, all while having an undercurrent of potential sociopath. The way these two play off one another is movie magic. I really think it would be a shame to ignore these performances come awards season.
Felicity Jones plays Finkel’s wife, Jill, with huge range, as usual on her part. She is vulnerable yet strong, as a woman stuck between a healthy marriage and the ambition of a husband hungry to rebuild his name. Once again, it’s the quiet moments that are some of the most frightening for her. Left alone in the house with remnants of Longo’s drawings and writings, she is visually confronted by his enigmatic musings that are wholly unsettling to stare at. This film is perfectly timed in its release with the popularity of The Jinx and the wildly successful podcast Serial. If you are a fan of either (which, frankly, you should be) True Story will be right up your alley.
Bottom line, TRUE STORY will chill you to your bone. It will give you pause. The film is so profoundly menacing because it is based on actual events. That creepy crawly feeling under your skin lasts long after you’ve exited the theater. The question still remains; “Who do you believe?”
TRUE STORY is now available on VOD and comes to theaters Friday, April 10th.
SYNOPSIS: When disgraced New York Times reporter Michael Finkel meets accused killer Christian Longo—who has taken on Finkel’s identity—his reporting job morphs into an unforgettable game of cat and mouse. Based on actual events, Finkel’s relentless pursuit of Longo’s true story encompasses murder, love, deceit, and redemption.
Robert John Burke