FX’s New Show About the Kidnapping of a Getty Heir Eclipses the Film Version

And never again underestimate Brendan Fraser

If there’s a better example than FX’s new Trust of how television surpasses movies these days as a creative medium, I don’t know what it is. Trust tells the same story as Ridley Scott’s feature All the Money in the World from late last year, about the most famous kidnapping of the ’70s that didn’t involve Patty Hearst.

In 1973 the grandson of American oil magnate J. Paul Getty, estimated by many at the time to be the world’s richest man, was snatched from the streets of Rome under cover of darkness; not altogether unreasonably, some wondered if this was less a crime than a scheme engineered by the victim, which was the excuse Getty needed not to pay the ransom—until the 16-year-old’s ear arrived in the mail with threats of more to come. To be fair, the Scott movie was derailed two months prior to its release by star Kevin Spacey’s calamitous fall from grace due to sexual assault accusations, with Christopher Plummer heroically stepping in to salvage the role of Getty. But this development can’t quite account for Scott’s plodding direction throughout that undermines even Michelle Williams’s usual perfection.

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Giving cinema its due, we should acknowledge that Trust’s director-writer team of Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy brings to the enterprise enough movie expertise to have racked up numerous Oscars and nominations between them. Like more and more filmmakers, they’re impressed less by any limitations TV imposes than by its new freedoms; where the complexities of Getty the man and of the kidnapping got steamrolled by Scott in the interest of conciseness and facile moral delineations, here they’re explored with the wit and intensity that Boyle-Beaufoy brought to Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours.

Donald Sutherland is an exponentially more interesting if no more palatable Getty, who either has been made monstrous by his money or whose innate monstrousness made the money in the first place, and if the aging, impotent narcissist who values personal loyalty above everything else reminds you of someone in the news these days, you can probably assume it’s not an accident. Hilary Swank is in the part Williams played as the younger Getty’s desperate mother, and best is Brendan Fraser as Getty’s go-to ex-CIA cartoon cowboy who keeps being underestimated. You suspect that—on the ascent again in a cruelly up-and-down career, with the successes of Gods and Monsters and The Mummy receding far behind him—Fraser knows keenly what it is to be underestimated by audiences, who are unlikely after this to make that mistake again.

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