The dramatisation of Michael Finkel’s memoir of the same name based on his utterly bizarre experiences with Christian Longo, who was arrested in 2002 whilst falsely using Finkel’s identity in Mexico. At the time, Longo had briefly made the FBI’s ten most wanted list and was subsequently remanded in custody under suspicion of having murdered his wife and three young children. Finkel was, until shortly before these events, a respected New York Times journalist, up until one of his articles was proven to have contained false information, but he is thusly thrust into the strange circumstances and agrees to write his book based on Longo and the interviews he conducts with him in prison.
The film stars James Franco as Longo, with Jonah Hill as Finkel and Felicity Jones as his girlfriend. The central performances are both very good, and the progression in the dynamic of their relationship and the corresponding variations in their acting are spot on – Jones is predominantly in the background although her character plays an important role in terms of the screenplay; interesting to know if this element was true to real life or not. Where the film is let down, however, is with the relative inexperience of director Rupert Goold who fails to create any lasting tension and punctuates the narrative with lulls in momentum. We can see what he was trying to do, much like in a scene staged at dusk such that sunlight streams in diffuse bands from just behind a hut in the background and at moments it looks very nice, but equally the rays cut in and out of shot which is really distracting to the viewer.
The actors just manage to hold interest up until Longo’s trial, and there the actual story kicks in and the real impact of events can be felt. Ultimately memorable despite never reaching the levels of drama that it perhaps ought to have done.