It doesn’t always get delivered in the best of methods, but it is important that it always gets heard. As a movie; Truth is more than a little uneven that tends to deliver political speeches instead of dialogue in a story that happened so close to home that it so very desperately needs to be heard.
It’s 2004 and Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) is an award winning journalist, Dan Rather’s (Robert Redford) personal producer and part of the crack team of investigative journalists that broke stories like Abu Ghraib and many others for the 60 Minutes news program, probably the last pure source and gold standard of investigative journalism out there. When she comes across the story of a sitting US president who may have been AWOL for over a year for his stint in the National Guard during the Vietnam war, she thinks that she has lightening in a bottle and she’s right more then she possible knows. Through a series of events and mistakes, the story blows up in their faces, ruins the careers of both Mapes and Rather while changing the modern landscape of journalism, and not necessarily for the better.
While the message is a little muddled, telling mostly only one side of the story, Truth works on the strength of its leading lady and the struggle for truth and transparency that she so clearly embodies.
Writer/Director James Vanderbilt who has a fairly solid yet unremarkable track record as a writer, slides into the director’s chair on this occasion for the first time and manages to get things from point A to point B in an efficient but reasonable manner, however the narrative can’t shake the salient bullet points that it has to hit. It plays more like we are watching a presentation rather than getting a slice of history. While we can’t discount the importance of telling a story like this where journalism gets corrupted and perverted, getting hit over the head with it all just feels like a bit much and some subtlety might have been nice. Thankfully Vanderbilt, whose sensibilities work fine as a writer in the action genre don’t translate over to the drama that we have here, but thanks to yet another stunning performance from his leading lady the movie gets carried over to the right side of the ledger.
To be perfectly fair, we’d all probably watch Cate Blanchett read the phone book but as Mary Mapes, she tears into the material as a crusader for quite simply; the truth. Blanchett knows how to hold the screen and even elevate material when she has to; she makes this so compelling to watch as we get wrapped into the psyche of Mapes and her search for the truth. Sadly it is only Blanchett here who is worth watching, Robert Redford while obviously engaged in the material, doesn’t pull off Rather all that well while the loaded supporting cast of Bruce Greenwood, Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Moss, Stacey Keach, Dermot Mulroney and Topher Grace never really get to resonate other then delivering impassioned speeches or the occasionally effective quip about politics. Vanderbilt has some strengths as a writer but they never trickle down past his primary characters.
Hardly something you have to rush to, but Truth works on the power of Blanchett’s conviction in this story that you wouldn’t expect to happen in a freedom loving country like the United States. It gets the point across, but stays on its soapbox a little longer then it probably should have.