January 31, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: TRUTH

Starring Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach, Dennis Quaid. Directed by James Vanderbilt. (2015, 125 min).

Mary Mapes was a respected CBS news producer responsible for a story on 60 Minutes which questioned George W. Bush's military service record in the early 70s. It presented evidence that he was able to avoid Vietnam by being accepted into the National Guard, even though Bush failed to meet any of the criteria and was absent during much of his time in the service. Since it was 2004 and Bush was seeking re-election, this had the potential to be the biggest story of the year.

Instead, the validity of Mapes' evidence (specifically, documents given to her team by a disgruntled ex-Colonel who supported John Kerry) was called into question. Before long, it was CBS' news division (mostly Mapes' team, which included Dan Rather) who were put under the microscope. The whole thing became a media scandal and damaged the reputations of the network and everyone involved in putting the story together. Heads rolled - Mapes' first - and Rather himself stepped down from the anchor-desk shortly afterwards.

I remember when this incident made headlines, but didn't pay much attention. After all, with Fox News airing ill-informed, jingoistic rhetoric on a daily basis, how could any goof by CBS be all that scandalous? Depending on how you looked at it, this momentary lapse of credibility was either blown way out of proportion, or justifiably ended the careers of people hell-bent on skewing the public's perception of our president during an election year.

Truth, based on Mapes' own book, is an obviously-subjective account of what transpired from her perspective (played by Cate Blanchett). But I couldn't care less about the film's bias because the story itself is presented as a crackling, dynamic drama with conspiracy thriller undertones tossed in for good measure. The chronology of the events which transpire are gripping, even suspenseful at times. Truth isn't actually about the Bush story itself, but those reporting it and the ramifications they face when their journalistic integrity is called into question.

No cake pops? That's disappointing.

Truth is an intriguing film, driven more by its characters than an agenda. Blanchett is terrific as Mapes, at-first single-minded in her journalistic ambition, but later vulnerable and empathetic once the dominoes begin to fall (and its effects on her family). As Dan Rather, Robert Redford is...well, Robert Redford. On occasion, he briefly looks and sounds like Rather, but more importantly, we accept him because Redford's achieved the same amount of iconic respectability. But the entire cast (including Topher Grace & Dennis Quaid) is also good, even if their characters aren't as fleshed-out.

What matters most, from a viewer's standpoint, is Truth manages to take a fairly-recent media 'scandal' and amp-up the drama to keep us intrigued the entire time, especially since most of us haven't given the incident another thought after controversy died down. As such, it's very entertaining, even if the resolution is a forgone conclusion. The film bombed in theaters, but certainly deserves a second life on home video.

  • Director & Producers Commentary
  • Featurettes: "The Reason for Being" (featuring Mary Mapes & Dan Rather); "The Team" (casting the film); "Q&A with Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss & James Vanderbilt"
  • Deleted Scenes

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