EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS Christian Colson, Simon Beaufoy, Danny Boyle CAST Donald Sutherland, Hilary Swank, Harris Dickinson, Brendan Fraser
PLOT It’s 1973, and John Paul Getty III (Dickinson) — heir to an oil shipping fortune — has just been kidnapped while living in Rome. His mother (Swank) and a family security official (Fraser) try to secure his safe return but, suspecting a hoax, his billionaire grandfather (Sutherland) refuses to pay a penny.
THERE’S AN UNFORTUNATE air of late arrival to this one. Inspired by the same true-life events as Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World and thematically of a piece with recent HBO breakout hit Succession, Trust runs the risk of offering viewers the TV equivalent of a wellmeaning colleague delivering a joke you’ve already heard before. But first, as we know, does not always mean best. And screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and director Danny Boyle have turned the newly familiar troubles of the Getty dynasty into something strange, audaciously funny and thrillingly macabre.
We start in 1973, with a knowing blast of Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’, and Boyle (who directs the first three instalments of the 10-episode series) expertly marshalling the grisly, drug-addled suicide of one of John Paul Getty’s (Sutherland) unruly sons. The funeral coincides with the arrival of bell-bottomed, debt-ridden outcast John Paul Getty III (Dickinson), who, initially, becomes a useful audience avatar for the coming journey into a world of super-rich dysfunction. We meet Getty Sr’s multiple wives and girlfriends and, naturally, catch a glimpse of the pet lion he has unleashed in his grand English manor.
After a thwarted attempt to winkle cash out of his granddad, ‘Little Paul’ returns to Rome and is promptly abducted by the Mafia-linked hoods he owes money to. His mother (Swank) works with Fraser’s genial Getty employee to get him freed until the older Getty — convinced that paying a ransom will open the extortion floodgates on his other heirs — publicly tells the kidnappers he won’t stump up. From here a knotty tale
— part high-grade soap, part Coen-ish exploration of dangerous criminal ineptitude — commences. Flashbacks deepen our understanding of Getty Sr’s cold cruelty, there’s a nuanced portrayal of the kidnappers and the cast all get the tricky, blackly funny tone just about right.
Sutherland is terrifically unsettling as Getty and slowly adds some interesting layers to the Scrooge Mcduck act. And Swank sells the anguish of a mother desperately trying to get both law enforcement and the Getty family to take her son’s disappearance seriously. But it’s Fraser, as a kind of deceptively sharp, Marge Gunderson-type, who is the real revelation, able to convey Stetsontipping Texan charm and grave seriousness with equal skill.
UNKLE musician James Lavelle’s throbbing, electronic score is a little intrusive at times and some of the Boyleian stylistic flourishes (Fraser’s emergence as a wry, to-camera narrator) are a touch jarring. But this is a hugely watchable series with lots of visual dazzle and plenty to say about the corrupting power of wealth.
VERDICT Not merely “that other Getty” drama, this is a fantastically acted, enjoyably weird comedy noir that — in directing terms — may make Bond fans weep anew for what might have been.
“One day son, all this won’t be yours.”