Final Thoughts: “Trust” Series One

Created by Simon Beaufoy and directed, in part, by Danny Boyle, Trust takes place in 1973 and revolves around the Getty dynasty, headed by the infamous John Paul Getty (Donald Sutherland), focusing primarily on the kidnapping of grandson Paul (Harris Dickinson) and the efforts taken by the boy’s mother Gail (Hilary Swank) and Getty’s security advisor Fletcher Chace (Brendan Fraser) to bring him home. The series tells of the many people involved in the affair, including the Calabrian mob abductors, headed by the unpredictable and dangerous Primo (Luca Marinelli).

Given how All the Money in the World was the first film I saw in the cinema this year, it seems only fitting that I would end my year with the same story and when I first saw this new television series being advertised, I was instantly curious as to how it would compare to Ridley Scott’s feature film. Ultimately, while I found that particular feature to be decidedly average, though with a nice design and a memorable performance from Christopher Plummer, Trust injects far more interest into the story of the Getty saga, it has a more appealing style, and, with the benefit of a ten episode series length, it’s so much more informative.

In the all important role of the towering tycoon John Paul Getty, Donald Sutherland is very impressive and effortlessly dominates proceedings whenever he is on screen, with help from the strong script and the fact that the character is naturally an intriguing one. With an ice cold stare, an acidic tongue and a particular penchant for money, power and sex, Sutherland’s Getty can appear perfectly cold, nasty, unfeeling and intimidating while also showing a dark sense of humour and an unabashed joy at seeing people suffer while he profits from their misery, quite often under the guise of wanting to help. But in those particular moments when turmoil strikes, he is able to show occasional bouts of remorse and he even cries at one point (and dances to “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in another!), so in this regard, there’s enough depth to his character and he isn’t just a greedy, one note monster. In Trust, Donald Sutherland gives a magnetic performance that manages to rival that of Christopher Plummer’s and watching him manipulate people and devilishly strive to get his own way always proves to be most entertaining.

In the supporting cast, Hilary Swank is equally impressive as Gail, the devoted mother who will stop at nothing to save her son; a lot of the time, she appears in dire straits as she understandably fears for her son but later on, we see her refusal to give up and when surrounded by apathy and incompetence, she takes back control, puts people in their place and takes more of an active role in the investigation. Swank shows plenty of resilience in the role, as well as heart and a caring spirit, and she’s a nice addition to the series. Luca Marinelli is also believably unhinged, cocksure and incredibly dangerous and abductor Primo and Silas Carson also shines brightly as the all seeing, all knowing Getty butler Bullimore/Khan – he is awarded a very interesting side story regarding his turbulent relationship with the Gettys and a touching friendship with the attentive gardener.

And as the “golden boy” Paul, Harris Dickinson has a far more expansive and interesting role than Charlie Plummer had in All the Money in the World. Starting off by making quite an entrance as he cooly struts onto the Getty estate to some Rolling Stones, Dickinson’s Paul is definitely a likeable enough kid and we can easily grow to care about him during his ordeal – there are many scenes where he bonds with some of his kidnappers with the aid of some impressive shadow figures – but he also has his troubles with substance abuse and can also prove himself to be a bit of an opportunist schemer with ulterior motives at times. With projects like The Darkest Minds and Beach Rats under his belt, Harris Dickinson is making himself more well known these days and with Trust, he admirably stands up tall alongside many of the more established performers, completely making the role of Paul Getty his own and showing off a well rounded and complex character.

But one performer threatens to steal the limelight off everyone else and that’s Brendan Fraser, who plays Getty’s “fixer” Fletcher Chace. A far more intriguing and compelling character than the iteration played by Mark Whalberg, Fraser’s Chase is a swaggering, street smart, bible quoting, cowboy hat wearing, livewire of a character whose primary function is to be the series narrator, breaking the fourth wall as he often explains what’s going on. His “walk and talks” and general John Wayne-ness give us the most entertaining and fun parts of the series and, though his part has surely been exaggerated for effect, Fraser is cool and so memorable in the role and he shares some great chemistry with Hilary Swank (and with us, the audience!).

Trust is also a particularly stylish series and to match its 1973 setting, the production/costume desgn is certainly era appropriate, there’s plenty of colour, the Italian locations look beautiful, and the series also makes good use of music tracks from artists like Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and Thunderclap Newman, among others. There are also plenty of clever directorial decisions scattered throughout the show and Trust makes good use of split screen and montages to keep things visually interesting and to evoke the spirit of the seventies.

In terms of the narrative, Trust manages to be very informative, multi layered and entertaining, giving us a dramatised version of events which, though possibly far from the truth, educate us on this particular period of history in an ideally compelling way, unlike All the Money in the World, which struggled a bit in condensing the gargantuan story into a feature length runtime. Trust is told over the course of ten episodes and while some stretches can occasionally feel like filler, each episode seems to serve a purpose and it manages to tell the stories of several characters, balancing compelling drama and humour very well. It goes narratively further than the film since it well and truly delves into the Getty empire, exploring the family’s “home life” and starting the series off with the question of who could take over the business following a suicide, and it also pays close attention to the lives and motivations of the Italian kidnappers, showing us what was going on in the area at the time and revealing that, following their acquisition of the ransom money, they went on to provide 80% of all major drug trade – Getty funded!

A stylish, engrossing and consistently well written saga with plenty of drama and several memorable performances.

★ ★ ★ ★

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