Monday, November 2, 2015

A Reel Review: TRUTH

James Vanderbilt’s TRUTH is the first of two major releases in the Fall of 2015 looking to explore ethics and integrity in journalism. Both are based on true stories, with the first one taking a look at the reporting job which led to the downfall of a network news giant.  

Controversy erupts around broadcasting giant CBS and around veteran news-anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) after the network airs a report about President George W. Bush’s military career.

At first glance and in the early goings, TRUTH feels like it’s a film that is out to take a side and tell the story as it really happened; to dispel any myths or lies and to just get it all straight. After a while, for better or for worse, it becomes clear that TRUTH doesn’t seek to take any sides, but to instead offer an examination of just how damn difficult it is to weed truth out from the lies.  The first half of the film is concerned with Mary and her team of investigators (played by Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss and Topher Grace) going through the steps of uncovering documents for what they consider to be the story of a lifetime. Once the story airs, it is a satisfying accomplishment for all and it is pleasing to watch.

Once the validity of their report becomes questioned (mostly around documents), things being to fall apart in a hurry for the team, and most especially Cate Blanchett’s Mary Mapes character. As the producer and de facto leader of the team, she gets most of the blame for the problems, and as her career and family become under fire because of the possible screw-up, TRUTH becomes a story about a person becoming unraveled. It becomes Blanchett’s film, and the destruction of a once-confident person becomes a fascinating watch.

First-time director James Vanderbilt has a lot to work with in TRUTH. Aside from the personal story of Mary Mapes, it also takes a long hard work at journalism in this current age, along with the importance of trust. Vanderbilt doesn’t go very deep with this material and smartly avoids any long debates between characters over what they should and shouldn’t do. But instead presents many open-ended questions that linger long after the credits roll.

Cate Blanchett is magnificent as always. Her breakdown is very convincing and it is a very powerful performance. Robert Redford has the hardest task of them all in playing the well-known newsman Dan Rather. Redford oddly only occasionally nails Rather’s unique mannerisms and accent, but when he does it’s like seeing that old newsman back on the set again. The supporting cast of Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, David Lyons, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach, and Dermot Mulroney are all excellent.

The final act of the film isn’t as fun as the early goings once Mary and her team start going through the grind of being questioned by lawyers and investigators, and things nearly grind to a halt. Seeing the process of building their story and having it fall apart around them was definitely more interesting, but by the time the smoke clears and people have lost their jobs over the whole thing, it makes TRUTH a very worthwhile look.


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