A patchy retelling of the Getty kidnapping that thrives once it throws off some directorial shackles
No one ever said being 16 was easy. But how much harder would it be if you were taken hostage by the Italian Mafia because your grandfather happens to be one of the wealthiest men in the world? For the kidnappers, it was a simple plan which would inevitably result in the immediate payment of a multi-million dollar ransom, right? Not when the grandfather in question is billionaire oil man John Paul Getty, whose notorious frugality led to him having a coin-operated payphone in his mansion, while he hand-washed his socks and effectively ran his very own harem at the age of 80. But worst of all, he opted to view the ransom demands as a chance to wield his negotiating powers, stubbornly refusing to have his grandson freed straight away.
This is the basis for the ten-part Trust, created by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) and executive-produced by Danny Boyle, director of the Trainspotting movies and that London Olympics opening ceremony, who recently departed the set of the next Bond film. The fact that this series comes hot on the heels of Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World which covers the same events, is either an act of fate that could be seen to either work in its favour or destroy it from the off.
The starry cast certainly suggests a thumbs-up with Donald Sutherland in especially wolfish form as the appalling Getty patriarch, Hilary Swank excellent as the determined mother of Paul, the kidnapped boy played by Harris Dickinson who goofs it up initially as an off-the-rails Robert Plant lookalike before becoming a figure of sympathy and humanity. Plus there's a uniformly superb Italian cast from the charismatic psychopath Primo (Luca Marinelli) to a number of more humane quasi-mafioso types who find themselves unwittingly way over their heads.
Trust is only let down by the hyper-kinetic directorial stylings of Danny Boyle who lets himself loose on the first three episodes and typically throws every visual he can lay his hands on at a story that could perfectly have thrived on its own two feet. Boyle can barely help himself from spoon-feeding the audience with the unnecessary over-use of a fourth-wall breaking narrator in the shape of Brendan Fraser as Getty's Texan-cowboy fixer Fletcher Chace. There's also barely any respite from a soundtrack that either permanently bubbles away in the background or explodes front and centre with predictable cuts of the period from Pink Floyd, Manfred Mann, Curved Air et al.
Once Boyle hands the reins over (or has them yanked out of his grip) to the likes of Susanna White (Our Kind of Traitor) and Jonathan van Tulleken (Top Boy), the drama is allowed to settle down into the kind of muted and sad affair that this story deserves. There are certainly some cinematic flourishes in the later episodes (eg Chace and Gail clad completely in white and driving through the Italian snow) but they are all wholly justified and strategically timed rather than just chucked into our eyes and ears for the hell of it.
Episodes watched: ten of ten.
Trust is on BBC Two from Wed 12 Sep, 9pm