Even on paper, any potential Truth had as a substantial commentary on journalism is squashed by the bias inherent to the film adaptation of a book by the story’s focal journalist-in-question, former 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes. In 2005, Mapes and CBS anchor Dan Rathers broadcasted an investigative piece showcasing documents indicating that then-President Bush did not actually fulfil military obligations as he previously claimed. The documents were obtained from Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett, and though efforts were made, there was little authentication and confirmation that these documents were valid.
Within hours of the broadcast, Mapes and Rathers’ story was being tracked and refuted by online commentators, bloggers, and eventually by other networks and publications, mainly based on the authenticity of the documents and the reliability of Bill Burkett and other testimonials. This prompted CBS to open an investigation into the journalistic process, where they eventually determed that the documents were forged, causing Mapes and Rathers to lose their jobs. It’s actually an interesting moment in American journalism, one that I was unaware of at the time as a whee little highschooler; but given that Truth‘s inspiration comes from Mapes own telling in her novel Truth and Duty, it feels innately skewed towards Mapes’ intentions and defence.
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Carol) is completely engaging and fierce as Mapes; she is easily the strongest quality of the film. Another would be her fantastic chemistry with Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), which is convincing enough to make you believe in their veteran capabilities as journalists and why their real-life counterparts were so staunch in their commitment to their work’s integrity, which draws some sympathy towards their story. By way of their performances, the audience can deconstruct some pieces of conversation surrounding the intersecting lines of due diligence, technology and journalism in today’s world, but it never comes to full fruition because the film, for the most part, zeroes in on Mapes career fallout rather than the entire scenario as a case study.
Truth is a snappy drama that is abuzz from the get-go and quickly falls into its polished, dramatic descent with a supporting cast of familiar faces (Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Olsen, Topher Grace). It is a smooth directorial debut from screenwriter James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, Independence Day: Resurgence), but not quite sleek enough to fall into the whimsically cool category nor striking enough to be a much talked about film in 2015; it is mainly just a resurrected defence.
I screened Truth at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Truth will be released across Canada this Friday, October 30th 2015.