Brendan Fraser, man.
He was a big movie star in the '90s and '00s, but after his third Mummy movie in 2008, his time as a young hunk in action movies was over, and his career took a decade-long downturn. He became known more as a meme than a man.
But then came a well-received guest-starring role on Showtime's The Affair, which led to him being cast in FX's Trust and an upcoming Canadian series called Condor. Then he showed up at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in a cowboy hat; he wasn't exactly in character as James Fletcher Chace from Trust, but he kinda was. It ruled. Then GQ's Zach Baron wrote a beautiful profile that answered the question "What happened to Brendan Fraser?" in a way that changed the public perception of Fraser's life and career. After you read the profile, you love Brendan Fraser and want nothing but good things to happen to him from here on out.
And now, finally, we got to see his buzzed-about performance in Trust, the second episode of which aired Sunday and heavily features Fraser. He's amazing. His triumphant next act is here. Matthew McConaughey's McConnaissance started in 2012 and peaked in 2014, but 2018 is the start of the Brenaissance. (We didn't coin that term, we got it from Reddit's preeminent Fraser meme community r/SAVEBRENDAN.)
On Trust, Fraser plays James Fletcher Chace, a fixer dispatched to Rome by J. Paul Getty (Donald Sutherland) to find his kidnapped grandson John Paul Getty III (Harris Dickinson). Chace is based on a real person named James Fletcher Chase who was played by Mark Wahlberg in the movie All the Money in the World, which is based on the same 1973 kidnapping scandal as Trust. Chace was introduced in the series premiere, but he only had a brief scene. It wasn't until Sunday's second episode, "Lone Star," that Fraser-as-Chace got to shine.
The episode is told from Chace's perspective, and what a perspective it is. Fraser plays him as a swaggering Texan, the quintessential Ugly American who thinks his money allows boorish behavior in a foreign country. He has a big cowboy hat, a lone star bolo tie and an American flag tied around his neck that he takes off and hangs from the shutters of his hotel room, proudly displaying for the town square to see. He calls everyone "son" in a booming voice. He puts a $100 bill in a bellhop's lapel and asks him to introduce him to the local mafia bigwigs. He's preposterous, a well-meaning rube who may not actually be all that well-meaning. The show's intoxicating blend of dark comedy and high drama allows him to be hilarious and serious at the same time. It's laughing at him while also showing him to be a competent operator who will not rest until his job is done.
His greatest moments, though, are the direct-to-camera soliloquies with which he opens and closes the episode. Episode writers Brian Fillis and Simon Beaufoy and director Danny Boyle give Fraser steak, and he chicken-fries the hell out of it. The first is intercut with Adam Curtis-esque archival footage commentary and delivered from the back of a chauffeured Rolls-Royce as Chace reflects on memorable years from the 20th century while drinking a bottle of milk. There was 1945, when World War II ended; and 1963, when JFK was assassinated ("shot through the head," he says, as a rifle sound effect adds punctuation); and of course 1969, an incredible year for mankind.
"But 1973? What can you say about the mousy-haired in-between girlfriend of a year?" he says. "Too old for the Swinging '60s, too young for disco. It was the year that America finally admitted that billions of dollars of firepower could not beat back a bunch of dollar-a-day Commies. The year the President said 'I am not a crook,' thereby adding crookery to his deceit. The students rioted, the workers went on strike, and the pure white cocaine was cut with rat poison," he says as we see quick flashes of a rolled-up bill sucking up a line of coke, a dead rat with flies buzzing around, and toxic brown goo. He takes a big sip of milk that leaves behind a mustache and says, "1973, the Year of our Lord. The milk went sour."
It's one of the best scenes of the year, an absolutely thrilling sequence where actor, writer, director and editor are all thrumming as one. And it's anchored by Fraser, with the blend of humor and gravitas that only living through some heavy stuff can bring. He's very much not the same Fraser who was oiled-up in a loincloth in George of the Jungle; he has a gut. He looks his age. He's a character actor, and that's what he's supposed to be now. And it's so good to see him again.
The Brenaissance is one of the only bright spots of 2018, the Year of our Lord. May it keep going until Brendan Fraser decides it's over.
Trust airs Sundays at 10/9c on FX.