“They do not get to do this! They do not get to smack us just for asking the question,” yells Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) to her superiors after her big story about President George W. Bush’s military service during Vietnam starts to fall apart in the dramatic film, Truth.
Back in 2004 in the days leading up to the presidential election 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes and veteran news anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) worked with a small investigative team on a news story focusing on the President of the United States’ military service. After being in touch with supposed whistleblower Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett (Stacy Keach) who hands over documents questioning Bush’s fitness and duty reports, Mapes and Rather run the story on 60 Minutes II.
Soon after the story airs, however, the authenticity of the documents come into question along with the real motives of Maples’ source and her own personnel politics. This inevitably leads to a firestorm of criticism and an investigation by CBS corporate which ultimately results in Mapes and Rather losing their jobs and their reputations in the news industry.
Based on true events, Truth is a stretched-out, melodramatic, historical docudrama that has a strong cast but suffers from a simplistic script and outrageous overacting. Cate Blanchett delivers an over-the-top, unsympathetic performance as the crusading 60 Minutes producer who is determined to get HER story on the air in the hopes of it affecting the upcoming election. Blanchett keeps resorting to grabbing her forehead and pushing her hair back time and time again every time her character is stressed or gets another piece of information on how she and her team broadcasted propaganda instead of actual facts.
Topher Grace is unimpressive and how he plays his character, investigative reporter Mike Smith, is borderline annoying. Smith whines about corporate America and how journalism is dying, coming across more like a liberal rookie wanting to “stick it to the powers in charge” while trying to impress his idol, Dan Rather, than a professional reporter. Grace just doesn’t sell the character to the audience. The scene late in the film where his character is told to leave the CBS News building and that he no longer is allowed on the premises is painfully horrible, with Grace’s character’s outlandish outbursts of conspiracies and corporate misconduct that the film would have benefited had the scene ended up on the editing room floor where it really belongs.
Dennis Quaid’s talents are wasted in Truth as Lt. Colonel Roger Charles, the military inside man and connection of Mapes’ investigative team who basically does nothing more than map out the people the team talks to in order to obtain the fake documents and lets young Smith know when the investigation into their story becomes serious.
The only two performances that almost save the film and make it worth sitting through are delivered by Redford and Bruce Greenwood. Robert Redford is marvelous as Dan Rather, capturing the larger than life persona of the legendary broadcaster as well as his connection and trust with Mapes. One scene in particular focusing on Redford as Rather on the phone talking to Blanchett as Mapes and letting her know he’s stepping down as the evening anchor of CBS News is cinematic gold.
Bruce Greenwood is perfect in his performance as President of CBS News Andrew Heyward. He portrays flawlessly the chief of the corporate news for CBS who’s forced to make hard choices and to begin an investigation into his own employees and eventually fire and force out those responsible for bringing the integrity of CBS News into question. Greenwood is one of the best character actors in the business today.
With outlandish overacting, a dumbed down script, and poorly paced and edited scenes, Truth is a terrible misfire of a film that fails to really reveal the motives and actions behind the bad journalistic practices it spotlights.
MPAA Rating: R for language and a brief nude photo
Running Time: 121 minutes
Directed By: James Vanderbilt
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