December 13, 2016
There have been a lot of films about journalists. The Oscar for Best Picture last year was in fact given to a film about newspaper journalists, "Spotlight." However, there had also been quite a number of classic films about TV journalists, including "Network" (1977), "The China Syndrome" (1979), "The Insider" (1999) and a personal favorite of mine "Broadcast News" (1987). Showing in a few selected cinemas this week is another one about TV news, and its stellar cast definitely made this a must-see despite the dearth of buzz about it.
The film was set during the US 2004 presidential campaign period when candidate George W. Bush's military record was in question. News producer Mary Mapes and her crew met dead end after dead end until they came across a man named Bill Burkett who possessed hard evidence in the form of memos and letters to prove preferential treatment. CBS News veteran Dan Rather himself reported on Mapes' story on "60 Minutes". After the broadcast, threads of their story's veracity start unraveling, putting everyone's career on the line.
As Mary Mapes, the versatile chameleon Cate Blanchett plays a character I had never seen her play before. She is strong, resourceful and willful, the epitome of a successful woman in the broadcast industry in the new century. However, when Murphy's Law hit her and her house of cards fall down around her, Blanchett captured so eloquently how Mapes broke down and how she tried to fight back.
Being an iconic star himself, Robert Redford never really became Dan Rather. Nevertheless, he played his character with the dignity and respect that was warranted. He gave the broadcast legend sincere warmth and gentility on and off the TV screen. His apology scene was stinging. His farewell scene was moving, with his memorable wish of "Courage" to his loyal viewers. Again though, we see Redford, never Rather.
Cheerful Elisabeth Moss, angsty Topher Grace and cool Dennis Quaid play other members of Mapes team. We catch a dour Dermot Mulroney as a member of the panel investigating Mapes. Special mention would have to go to Stacy Keach in his riveting performance as the key witness, Bill Burkett. Respected Australian actress Noni Hazelhurst had an outstanding scene playing Burkett's loyal wife, Nicki.
In his directorial debut, James Vanderbilt, best known for writing the excellent David Fincher film "Zodiac" (2007), also wrote the script of "Truth". Since Vanderbilt based his script on Mary Mapes' memoirs, what we see onscreen is only her version of the story. In this film, as in the news, we see what the media wants us to see. Depending on the bias of the one telling the story, smaller side details and technicalities can bury the truth underneath. This educational film shows us how, with emotion and suspense to keep us glued. One should not forget though that this film is not the whole truth. 7/10.