Never let it be said that Trust is afraid of a change of tone; this week’s episode takes off into a wild pursuit, sacrificing psychological analysis for rattling action. Can young John Paul Getty escape his captors – or is it a case of ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in?’
Director Dawn Shadforth takes over the reins for episode five, Silenzio, and has the bonus of being able to work with the lush Calabrian countryside. Its vertiginous beauty serves to hide the poverty of its inhabitants; Getty would clearly be happy living there, but how would he pay the bills? The Calabrian mafiosi justify themselves by arguing that while their Cosa Nostra counterparts consort with politicians and industrialists, they are reduced to shaking down bakers; Getty is their chance to make it into the big time. It’s almost a convincing argument until you remember that gangsters are basically too cowardly and lazy to work for a living.
One, though, young Angelo, is sufficiently educated and worldly-wise to feel that, although it means leaving behind his family and his home, he has to help John Paul escape. They embark on an ill-advised flight across the countryside, pursued by manic Primo, and the whole of Salvatore’s family.
Salvatore, who demonstrates his dominance by wearing a vest but with a smart jacket draped over his shoulders, directs grim-faced farmers with shotguns and hounds to dog to the fleeing pair, until they take refuge on a slow-moving cargo train. There are shades of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Deliverance, Stand By Me and even Invasion of the Body Snatchers as Salvatore mobilises his troops, and an entire village is emptied in search of John Paul and Angelo.
Meanwhile, Chace tries to reassure Gail that Getty Sr’s negotiating tactics – offering a ransom of $600 plus expenses – are sound. The more grounded Gail realises that this is just an insult to the kidnappers, and fears the worst. When she almost gets to speak to John Paul on the phone, her misery is palpable.
Getty Sr is fending off offers of pocket money towards the ransom – “I didn’t say I couldn’t pay, I said I wouldn’t”. His PA Robina Lund (Charlotte Riley, currently also starring in Press) is one of the few sympathetic characters, acidly rebuking Getty with “You never know when 50p might come in handy.”
Butler Bullimore (Silas Carson) is another quiet but influential presence, providing some emotional resonance as he conducts a low-key flirtation with the gardener.
But Angelo (the aptly named Andrea Arcangeli) is a really tragic character, torn between family loyalty and sympathy for John Paul. His inevitable death at the hands of Primo is heart-rending, as is that of the hospitable old man who has given them food, drink, shelter, and a tune on the bagpipes (presumably his wife gave the two away and was so spared, that’s never quite clear). The dichotomy between the welcoming face of the Italian people and the ruthlessness of the gangsters is a theme which is constantly explored.
We’re left not knowing whether John Paul Junior is alive or dead – (well, there are five episodes to go, so obviously he’s alive) – but one thing is sure, he’d have been better off had he never tried to escape. When we next see him he will be returned to captivity in much worse conditions, shackled in a cave and kept alive on brandy and gruel, his real ordeal about to start.
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