True Story Blu-ray Review

     Actors: James Franco, Ethan Suplee, Jonah Hill
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: August 4, 2015
  • Run Time: 100 minutes


            It may have been an odd choice to cast two leads better known for their comedic connections in film, but the true crime of True Story is the feeling that both actors are much better than their performances in these roles. Jonah Hill has tackled dramatic roles with critical praise in recent history, but doesn’t seem quite capable of making this unlikable protagonist worth watching for the brief running time. And James Franco is merely sleepwalking through his performance, nearly as bored as the audience waiting for the twists and turns of suspense which never arrive. 


            The film is framed as a thriller, which is entirely misleading. Although the screenplay sets the film up with a mystery to draw the audience in, it becomes clear by the third act that the answer to this minor curiosity is insignificant and ends up dismissed without clear explanation. This is a clear-cut crime drama, but even that approach is not taken to the material thanks to the preoccupation with the narcissistic author of the book that the film is about and based on. Even though the sentiment that journalist Michael Finkel (Hill) will be best known for talking to accused murderer Christian Longo (Franco) is the final note of Rupert Goold’s film, the filmmaker forces the audience to endure far more of this author than his subject.


            In a desperate attempt to make thematic connections between the two men, True Story begins with Finkel being fired from The New York Times for embellishing and falsifying some of the facts for his latest story. As we have seen in recent events, one of the worst things a journalist can be known for is lying, but Finkel sees an opportunity to save his own career when a brutal murderer is caught in Mexico using the writer’s name. Longo is accused of killing his wife and three children in a horrific manner, but Finkel agrees to meet with him after discovering the odd flattery that he had pretended to be the disgraced journalist while eluding the police. The intentions of neither character are particularly trustworthy, nor are their interactions revealing or honest enough to warrant this film or the book it was based on.


              Director and co-writer Goold is best known for his theater work, with True Story being his feature-film directorial debut. This actually seems as though it would be a good match, since a majority of the film’s crucial action is simply two men talking to each other in a visiting room, but neither of these characters or the dialogue they speak is ever compelling enough to warrant spending time with them. Only the promise of truth will keep audiences interested, and even that is more tragic than entertaining. It is the equivalent of looking at a car wreck while passing through the traffic it caused; as if curiosity is the only small reward for patience in an unpleasant situation. There is no actual pleasure in the revelations, making one wonder what the point of making the film was in the first place.


            The Blu-ray release includes a handful of extras, including an insignificant alternate ending along with additional deleted scenes. There are also four featurettes; one for each of the men at the center of the story, another for the true story the film was adapted from, and a generic making-of featurette. Also included is a commentary track with Goold and a production gallery. The Blu-ray release also comes with a digital HD copy of the film.


    Entertainment Value: 6.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10

    Historical Significance:  4/10

    Special Features: 8/10

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