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The film is exceptionally well-made... There is nothing warm about the style, yet it allows for moments of simmering tension, broken by a few emotional explosions that shatter its well-composed surface.
The reporter/convict dynamic doesn’t have enough layers to carry the film without some hint of mystery. The relationship between the two, chilling as it is, never raises this “Story” from generic to profound.
While never as gripping as a good piece of fiction, Goold’s treatment actually manages to improve on the book, even if that meant fabricating a few things along the way.
If the film's copycat visual artistry illuminates nothing, at least its script is sincerely devoted to probing Finkel and Longo's odd partnership.
No one in the film is particularly likeable, and while the global implications about epistemology are interesting, the specifics of this particular case, at least rendered here, are quite dull.
The Hollywood Reporter
Goold's work never feels stagey; a smart and varied visual sense opens up even settings as basic as a jail's visiting room. But what happens in that room isn't as convincing as might be expected from these actors.
Lead performances from Jonah Hill and James Franco are plenty impressive. But at the same time, True Story is almost too polished and clever for its own good, sacrificing complexity for a surface-y examination of the issues at play.
While Longo's actions were horrifying and his connection to Finkel is unique, Goold somehow can't make this material as interesting as you'd expect it to be.
Goold, a highly regarded British theater director making his debut feature, lacks the panache to realize this twisted relationship onscreen. Instead he’s made a stolid, well-acted, intelligent drama that respects the complications of Finkel and Longo’s storytelling agendas without bringing them to life.
Especially for a movie that springs from a horrific and grisly crime, True Story feels undershaped and indistinct; it’s too dispassionate to be genuinely chilly.
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