Perhaps naming a motion picture Truth is opening the door to criticism over the real validity of its contents — more so when the film is based on true events and events that are still relevant in the public conscious, no less. But regardless of some of its debatable content, James Vanderbilt’s directorial debut admirably reaches to capture a genuine depiction of modern journalism and its ingrained complexities.
The film, based on journalist Mary Mapes’ memoir, “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power,” follows the story of Mapes (Cate Blanchett, “Cinderella”) and her time spent as producer of CBS’s “60 Minutes” during the George W. Bush administration. Around the time of the 2004 elections, Mapes and her crew begin uncovering evidence that suggests that President Bush had received special treatment during his military service. After the story is delivered on-air by news anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford, “All Is Lost”), a wave of backlash hits the reporters threatening to jeopardize their careers and credibility as journalists.
As one might guess from first glance of the plot, this is a bit of a lofty story to tell, and as the movie unfolds, it is occasionally plagued with sizable data-dumps that might leave audiences overwhelmed by the sheer amount of exposition being served rapidly and in high-quantity. Luckily, to combat this issue, the more vital pieces of information are highlighted well in the dialogue, and most importantly, they are delivered by a stellar cast including Dennis Quaid (“The Words”), Topher Grace (“Interstellar”), Elisabeth Moss (“Get Him to the Greek”) and Bruce Greenwood (“Wildlike”) among others.
But the real stand-out performances of the piece are, perhaps unsurprisingly, delivered by our lead players. Blanchett captures a remarkable portrayal of Mary Mapes that is not only the ideal conduit for our way into the story, but is also a character that feels entirely tangible and realistic. Similarly, Robert Redford’s presence is perfect for the on-screen depiction of Dan Rather that immediately invokes a quality of professionalism and prestige coupled with an inviting charisma that lifts the movie each time he appears.
Truth succeeds in creating a riveting atmosphere that makes the audience a part of the investigative process of journalism, effectively carrying us over a series of triumphs and downfalls inherent in the field, and this procedural look at reporting and its intrinsic risks is undoubtedly the strongest quality of the film. The story does, however, occasionally get a bit bogged down by trying to encompass too much. Subplots involving Mapes’ troubled relationship with her father, though potentially intriguing and are likely given more justice in the memoir, feel extraneous without much real payoff in the finished picture.
Though it may not be a perfect film, Truth is a powerful piece of work that clearly feels important, certainly for those in or aspiring to be in the field of journalism today. Surely it doesn’t quite achieve the iconic status of “All the President’s Men,” but one can easily picture this movie being shown to future journalism majors with the likes of that classic film.