Synopsis: Newsroom drama detailing the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes report investigating then-President George W. Bush’s military service, and the subsequent firestorm of criticism that cost anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes their careers.
Release Date: October 30, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Biography, Drama
Set just as George W. Bush was gearing up his bid for re-election in 2004, Truth stars Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) as Mary Mapes, a news producer who, fresh off her Peabody Award-winning breaking of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, is looking for her next big scoop. She thinks she has found it when she receives a tip that suggests that Bush used his family connections to sneak into the Texas National Guard, thereby avoiding Vietnam. Mary assembles an investigative team which consists of military consultant Lt. Colonel Roger Charles (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra‘s Dennis Quaid), researcher/fact-checker Lucy Scott (Elisabeth Moss from “Mad Men”), and old friend/freelance news stringer Mike Smith (Topher Grace from “That ’70s Show”), and they dig in and come up with a document that not only proves that Bush backed his way into the National Guard, but that he shirked his duties once he was there and his superiors covered for him. Thinking that they have their smoking gun, Mary hastily puts the story together and has her friend and colleague Dan Rather (All is Lost‘s Robert Redford) deliver the report on CBS News’ flagship show “60 Minutes.” Shortly after the story runs, however, it is revealed that the documents may be forgeries, and Mary and her team are forced to go on the defensive as other news outlets attack not only the story, but Mary herself.
Based on Mary Mapes’ 2005 memoir Truth and Duty: Press, The President, and the Privilege of Power, Truth is the directorial debut from screenwriter James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, White House Down), who also wrote the screenplay. Because it is based on Mapes’ own book, it should be obvious from the start that the movie has a slant. But, even with its bias, the film has the air of academic honesty and historical accuracy. In fact, it almost has too much of that air; much of the dialogue, even that which is spoken in casual conversation, sounds like it was lifted out of a news report. The actors manage to pull it off, but they’ve definitely got their work cut out for them delivering the dull and drab spoken exposition.
Truth attempts to send an important message about how the media reports on itself; the rival news agencies are more concerned with Mary’s investigative techniques and her reporting methods than the actual importance of the story, so the subject of the persecution shifts from President Bush to Mary Mapes and her team. There’s even a scene late in the film where Mary is being grilled about the story and she is asked if she is a liberal, to which she replies “don’t you mean, am I or have I ever been a liberal?”, recalling the McCarthy anti-communism hearings of the fifties. There’s an interesting idea about scapegoats and witch hunts there that Vanderbilt is trying to develop, he just never fully realizes it.
At one point, with all of its investigation and regurgitation, Truth turns into a police procedural movie, only without the police; it’s that clinical. And clinical, in this case, is another word for dry. There’s another movie coming out in the next few weeks that deals with a group of reporters digging into a controversial story that does it much better, and without the sterile mumbo-jumbo. For those who can wait a few, go see Spotlight instead of Truth.
The cast is Truth brings its A-game to the production, and the ensemble is anchored by Robert Redford. His character is not the main focus, but his portrayal of Dan Rather is uncanny. Sure, the hair and makeup go a long way towards making Redford look the part, but the actor captures every little mannerism and each subtle nuance, completely selling the performance. As charismatic a presence as Redford is, he isn’t the real star of the film; the name above the title is Cate Blanchett, and she earns her keep as well, putting forward a sassy confidence that could only belong to an experienced ace television news producer like Mary Mapes. Topher Grace is impressive as fiery freelance investigator Mike Smith as well, taking another step towards proving he can act far beyond his sit-com roots. Dennis Quaid and Elisabeth Moss are both good, but neither of them are given too much room to spread their wings, which is fine. There’s enough star power to carry the cast of Truth with just Redford and Blanchett; Quaid and Moss can afford to just do what supporting actors do, and support.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): James Vanderbilt
- Producer(s): Brad FischerDoug MankoffBrett RatnerWilliam SherakAndrew SpauldingJames Vanderbilt
- Screenwriter(s): James Vanderbilt
- Story: Mary Mapes
- Cast: Cate Blanchett (Mary Mapes)Robert Redford (Dan Rather)Topher Grace (Mike Smith) Dennis Quaid (Lt. Colonel Roger CharlesElisabeth Moss (Lucy Scott)Bruce Greenwood (Andrew Heyward)Stacy Keach (Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett)John Benjamin Hickey (Mark Wrolstad)David Lyons (Josh Howard)Dermot Mulroney (Lawrence Lanpher)Rachael Blake (Betsy West)Andrew McFarlane (Dick Hibey)
- Editor(s): Richard Francis-Bruce
- Cinematographer: Mandy Walker
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Amanda Neale
- Casting Director(s): Nikki BarrettJohn Papsidera
- Music Score: Brian Tyler
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA