James Franco and Jonah Hill combine forces to produce an often mesmerising and true story about a convicted murderer and a disgraced journalist and their fragile relationship.
In his best work to date, Franco portrays Christian Longo, an Oregon man whose wife and three children have been murdered. He is arrested in Mexico but claims to be a reporter for The New York Times named Michael Finkel.
In New York city, the real Finkel (played by Jonah Hill) is an ambitious and successful reporter who gets into trouble with his editors. They accuse him of partially fabricating a story they had featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine.
Although Finkel attempts to defend his actions, he is dismissed. He returns home to Montana, where his wife Jill (Felicity Jones) lives.
He tries to find work but is unsuccessful due to his dismissal.
One day Finkel is contacted by a reporter for The Oregonian who is seeking his opinion on Christian Longo’s theft of his identity.
Finkel, who was not aware of Longo’s actions, is intrigued and arranges to meet with Longo in prison.
At their first meeting, Longo claims he has followed Finkel for his entire career as he is fascinated by his writing. Longo agrees to tell Finkel his side of the story in exchange for writing lessons, and Finkel’s promise of silence about their encounters.
As the story progresses, Finkel realises there may be a book in the offing and he puts forward a proposal to a publishing house that likes the idea.
As the meetings between the two men grow in intensity, a grey area manifests in their relationship and Finkel has to distinguish between the lies and the truth.
Longo, who is evasive about his guilt, is convincing and Finkel believes his story will prove redemptive. Finkel receives numerous letters from Longo, including an 80-page volume entitled Wrong Turns, which contains what Longo describes as a list of every mistake he has made in his life.
The journalist notices increasing similarities between them, including parallels between the styles of writing and drawing in Longo’s letters and Finkel’s personal journals. As the trial approaches, Finkel’s doubt about Longo’s guilt increases. Longo tells Finkel he intends to plead not guilty, and that he did not kill his family.
Based on Finkel’s book, the film is by first-time director Rupert Goold who fashions a story with great psychological impact.