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Blu-ray Review True Story Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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Matt Hough
True Story Blu-ray Review

What better title for the real-life tale of two damaged men on a psychological collision course than True Story, Rupert Goold’s screen version of the autobiographical book by journalist Michael Finkel. The movie may play a little fast and loose with the details of the nonfiction novel, but it’s nevertheless a reasonably gripping game of intellectual cat and mouse between two men both in desperate need of redemption even when (as we find out in some closing end cards) the contest of wills appears to still be going on.



Studio: Fox

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Rating: R

Run Time: 1 Hr. 39 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet

keep case in a slipcover

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 08/04/2015

MSRP: $27.99




The Production Rating: 3.5/5

Disgraced after a cover piece for The New York Times Magazine is proven to be fabricated, journalist Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) tucks his tail between his legs and retreats to loving girl friend Jill Barker (Felicity Jones) in Montana while he ponders his next move. That problem becomes moot when he’s dragged into a seamy murder case involving Christian Longo (James Franco), a charming family annihilator who was apprehended in Mexico using Finkel’s name and occupation as an alias. Visiting Longo in prison in Oregon, Mike realizes he’s sitting on a potential best seller along the lines of In Cold Blood with a killer who suggests he’s actually innocent. Garnering a $250,000 advance from Harper Publishing after interviewing Longo and writing a few chapters, FInkel is astonished when Longo actually pleads guilty in court to two of the four committed murders thus making what’s he’s written seem like another fabrication. Trying to figure out Longo’s game plan is impossible since the inscrutable enchanter seems to have an agenda all his own.

 

Director Rupert Goold co-wrote the screenplay with David Kajganich, and the pair have structured their script with constant back-and-forth views (sometimes seconds long) between the two friendly adversaries. While an experienced journalist like Finkel seems a bit naïve to be taken in so easily by a relatively obvious con man like Longo, the screenplay, the direction, and the performance of James Franco are all trying to establish his earnestness and openness and vulnerability that win over the desperate-to-believe Finkel (though Franco occasionally gives the game away a bit with – if you notice them – occasional subtle facial expressions and body language). Goold in his first big screen director assignment shows some stylish transitions between scenes, a confident use of montage (Chris’ witty writings, drawings, and narrative all combined in a clever jumble of audio and visual assembly), and some nicely drawn parallels between lovers Mike and Jill (he pecking at his laptop; she plunking keys on a piano) and the early camaraderie between Mike and Chris (in their manner of jotting things down with illustrations). When all of the puzzle pieces eventually fall into place during Chris’ testimony at his trial, it’s a riveting revelation for both Finkel and the viewer, even for those of us who were more mistrustful of the cobra-smiling Longo than Finkel was and shows all of the careful preparation by writers and director in the extended sequence of interviews earlier in the film was definitely worth it. It’s only the continuing relationship between the two men that continues today that remains an enigma, and that’s something neither the author nor the filmmakers are able to rationally explain.

 

Good friends Jonah Hill and James Franco work easily with one another throughout, both playing their calculatingly desperate roles quite well. Franco, with the more difficult and cryptic persona to enact, perhaps has the edge in the final analysis, but it’s a near photo finish. Felicity Jones grows in authority as the film runs so that a climactic encounter between her and Longo shows an actress fully in command, and she hides her British accent quite well. As the reporter who breaks the news to Finkel about his doppelganger, Ethan Suplee leaves behind his television comic personas and does a fine job. So does veteran Robert John Burke as a driven detective determined to see Longo pay for his crimes.



Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Apart from a few focus pulling issues, sharpness is excellent throughout with details in facial features, hair, and clothing easily discernible. Color is sure and solid without ever drawing attention to itself while flesh tones are completely realistic. Contrast is usually consistent in application, but black levels are not the transfer’s strongest asset. The movie has been divided into 28 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is certainly adequate for the storytelling, but surround envelopment is minimal with Marco Beltrami’s sparse music score serving as the primary surround element. Atmospheric effects don’t get much spread past the front soundstage. Dialogue, however, has been excellently recorded and has been placed in the center channel.



Special Features Rating: 3.5/5

Audio Commentary: writer-director Rupert Goold offers a fact-filled commentary on the making of the film showing us scenes filmed a year after principal photography wrapped and commenting on his methods for directing both principal actors. It’s worth a listen even with all of the effusive praise he offers his collaborators.

 

Deleted Scenes/Alternate Ending (16:44, HD): four deleted scenes and an alternate ending may be viewed separately or in montage and with or without commentary by director Rupert Goold.

 

Mike Finkel (3:33, HD): the real-life character comments on the story as well as the actor playing him, Jonah Hill. Also commenting on the character are James Franco and Felicity Jones.

 

Who is Christian Longo? (3:56, HD): Mike Finkel describes his impressions of the real-life killer to supplement the comments by James Franco, Jonah Hill, and director Rupert Goold.

 

The Truth Behind True Story (4:03, HD): Jonah Hill tells the story of the film, supplemented by film clips and sound bites from James Franco, Rupert Goold, and Felicity Jones.

 

The Making of True Story (5:26, HD): director Rupert Goold describes the story as the rivalry between two nemeses and then has words of praise for his stars Felicity Jones, James Franco, and Jonah Hill who return the praise for his first directorial film work.

 

Gallery (HD): two dozen stills and behind-the-scenes color photos which may be stepped through by the viewer.

 

Theatrical Trailer (2:25, HD)

 

Promo Trailers (HD): Far from the Madding Crowd, Cake, Before I Go to Sleep, among others.

 

Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in case.



Overall Rating: 3.5/5

True Story may not quite be the mesmerizing thriller the ads and posters claim it to be, but it’s certainly a story that holds one’s interest, and for a first-time film director, Rupert Goold has captured the essence of the book quite wonderfully. Excellent picture and sound also make viewing this offbeat story a real pleasure.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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