Whenever you hear a cast headlined by Jonah Hill and James Franco your natural instinct is to expect a comedy, but nothing could be further from the truth in Rupert Goold's Sundance selected drama, True Story. Despite Hill's and Franco's reputations as comedic powerhouses, both have proven that their more than capable of handling dramatic work. The duo, along with last year's Best Actress nominee Felicity Jones, form a trio of performing talent that undoubtedly elevate True Story to respectable heights.
The film is based on the real life story of a former FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted, Christian Longo (played by Franco), who was apprehended in Mexico and found to be living under the name of Michael Finkel (Hill), a recently dismissed writer for the New York Times. Once Finkle discovers this bizarre reality, he meets with Longo and the two form an unusual relationship as the prisoner awaits trial for the murder of his wife and three children. Longo grants the writing pariah exclusive rights to his story as Finkle dives deeper and deeper to learn the truth of what happened that fateful night.
True Story is an immensely gripping crime drama comprised of worthwhile performances and a stellar screenplay. At its core is the cerebral chess match so perfectly executed by the onscreen duo of Jonah Hill and James Franco. Writer and director Rupert Goold's well-crafted story does a fantastic job of taking the audience on Finkel's blind journey into the mind of an accused killer. The story regularly shifts back and forth between believing in Longo's innocence one moment, and then doubting it the next. True Story has all the appeal of a CSI crime show with top-flight acting and an edge-of-your-seat script.
Despite the film's strong performances and captivating screenplay, True Story finds flaws in various other areas. While The Theory of Everything star, Felicity Jones, is a remarkable talent, her efforts become nearly wasted in a melodramatic role that never provides an appropriate platform to shine. In addition, the film's concluding scene is completely unnecessary and a hokey way to wrap up an otherwise solid feature. However, it wasn't the only poor decision by Rupert Goold. The filmmaker also uses some peculiar camera angles and shots sporadically throughout the film that were head-scratching to say the least.
True Story is loaded with both bright spot and shortcomings, confirming it's far-removed from an awards contending drama. Yet, fantastic performances are on display and a grisly story will keep you engrossed in the film. Before the summer blockbuster season kicks off on May 1st with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, True story is an early-year release worthy of viewing.