Starring Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood, Stacey Keach, Elisabeth Moss
Perhaps screenwriter James Vanderbilt learned what not to do while working on White House Down (to his credit he also worked on the Zodiac screenplay), because his directorial debut Truth is quite a provocative piece of cinema. Truth dramatizes the events that led to the departure of CBS evening news anchor Dan Rather and his 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes. Despite making journalism heroes out of Rather/Mapes, adapting her book (while still affording the viewer the right to judge for themselves) it chronicles cringe worthy mistakes and cooperate involvement. At the end of the day its storytelling, despite what side of the pig pen you are on; good storytelling, that showcases a stellar cast led by the full force of Blanchett.
“When you stop asking questions, that’s when people lose,” Dan Rather (Redford) says. The question that is being asked in 2004, by Mary Mapes (Blanchett), was to George W. Bush’s military record. Mapes and the CBS Dallas office crew were up against a deadline, there were documents that never stood on solid ground, and the 60 Minutes team ran a rushed and ill-vetted story that publically blew up in their face before the final tick of the stopwatch theme. What happened next was a journalistic nightmare, the documents Mapes and Rather built their story on were likely forgeries and their key source backtracks. The journalists become the national news story and CBS corporate needs someone to blame for the compromising position.
The detailed inner workings of network news that makes Truth not only engaging but suspenseful.
If you have ever heard the phrase “The hunter becomes the hunted”, Truth visualizes that sentiment. This isn’t the first time double Oscar Winner Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Elizabeth) has portrayed a journalist, her 2003 Golden Globe nominated performance in Veronica Guerin was equally as powerful. Yet it’s the performances here, including Redford at his best in years, combined with the detailed inner workings of network news that makes Truth not only engaging but suspenseful. Vanderbilt’s script isn’t about conservatives versus liberals, it’s about journalism versus politics lying in the same corporate bed. While Truth never reaches the quality of filmmaking Michael Mann’s The Insider (another CBS scandal film also dealing with evolution of corporate news network), it’s still the type of film that can start conversations.
Whether realistic or not, Vanderbilt portrays Redford’s Rather as a grandfather figure, using small talk and relatability too comfort Mapes’ source (Keach). Yet where Truth really soars are in scenes like the sources wife (Noni Hazlehurst), rightfully scolds Mapes and her crew for breaking their word. The elements that keep the film from reaching greatness are evident with an in-flight conversation where Quaid’s character tells Elizabeth Moss about Mapes mother, Al Gore, and 500 votes. The film certainly has its weaknesses, high and low points, but Blanchett and Redford give cause to the film. If nothing else we learn that journalists are only human, make mistakes and are held accountable like the rest of us.
First time director, Blanchett & Redford deliver a compelling conversation.