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dir Rupert Goold
scr Rupert Goold, David Kajganich
prd Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Anthony Katagas
with Jonah Hill, James Franco, Felicity Jones, Robert John Burke, Gretchen Mol, Ethan Suplee, Betty Gilpin, Byron Jennings, Maria Dizzia, David Pittu, Seth Barrish, Robert Stanton
release US 17.Apr.15, UK 17.Jul.15
15/US Regency 1h39
Just the facts: Franco and Hill
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Based on real events as recounted by journalist Mike Finkel, this film spins a fascinating mystery that holds the attention simply because it's so twisty and creepy. But while exploring an offbeat connection between two men, first-time British director Goold establishes a far too moody-gloomy tone, which mutes the pungent themes and haunting story.
Sacked by the New York Times for tinkering with his latest cover story, Mike (Hill) returns home to Montana and his girlfriend Jill (Jones), discovering that no editor wants to work with him. Then another journalist (Suplee) tells him that a man arrested for killing his wife and children had been hiding out using Mike's identity. Curious, Mike goes to meet Christian (Franco), and the two begin to talk about his upcoming trial as Mike begins to write a book about the case. But Christian remains elusive about whether or not he's guilty.
The murder at the centre of the story is so horrific that it's essential to maintain some journalistic cynicism to accept the way Mike befriends and seems to trust Christian. Hill and Franco give realistic, understated performances that seem to move in slow motion (like the entire movie does). This draws out all kinds of intriguing issues between them, although it never quite cracks the surface, especially since Christian remains so slippery. And Jones is badly sidelined in an underdeveloped role.
Goold shoots this almost clinically, editing the sharp camerawork to a low-energy rhythm. The story is essentially from Mike's perspective, but point-of-view this is muddled with flashbacks. And the story is so dense that its twists and turns have little emotional impact. Most annoying is the way the film paints Mike as a hapless victim of Christian's smooth-talking. Even after months of lengthy correspondence and frequent face-to-face encounters, he seems to no idea of the truth as the facts emerge in the courtroom.
But then this is actually an exploration of Mike's crisis of self-identity, and the film cleverly links this with themes rooted in relationships, the right everyone has to be heard and how the public perceives the truth. With more energy and spark, the film might have been able to get deeper under the audience's skin. But at least it gets us thinking. As Mike says, "Sometimes the truth isn't believable, but that doesn't mean it isn't true."
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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