Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

Australia/USA 2015
Directed by
James Vanderbilt
125 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Synopsis:  In  2004, on the brink of a Presidential election, CBS’s 60 Minutes program aired a story questioning then-President George W. Bush's military record. The imbroglio that ensued cost anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) their careers.

It is ironic that a film that shows the perils of personal bias in journalism should itself be so unreservedly passionate in realizing its own agenda.  This however is also the strength of the film, its rhetorical emotionalism giving it an old-school idealism rarely seen in our more cautious times but eminently well-suited to servicing the film’s high-minded mission.

Truth is the gripping story of how Ms Mapes and her team tried to nail George W. as one of a group of young men from wealthy, well-connected (to use a pun) Texan oil families who in the late 60s took advantage of the Texas Air National Guard to make sure that they did not end up in Vietnam. The story was a bombshell but not as it was intended to be, blowing up in the face of CBS and leading to a purge of all connected with it as the network and its corporate owners rushed to appease the firestorm of right-wing (i.e.advertiser) ire.

Whilst James Vanderbilt’s film is an impressively polished directorial debut it’s success owes much to his experience as a screenwriter (he has scripted David Fincher’s Zodiac as well as a handful of lesser action films). The plot is stay-on-your-toes complicated as it details the initial investigation and then the scramble to save face once things go pear-shaped but Vanderbilt smoothes the way whilst at the same time giving us economically- but effectively-drawn characters.  

There is in all this a little too much cinematic gloss, particularly in the first half of the film and this keeps its a bit south of Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 classic of investigative journalism, All The President’s Men, but given the relative inconsequentiality of this story, the sheen is arguably justified.  Even so, Vanderbilt goes perhaps a little too far in presenting Rather as a sanguine journalistic patriarch. His retirement speech is given a near-beatific enhaloing but as Rather subsequently sued CBS for breach of contract (he lost) one questions the Zen-like unflappability with which he is endowed here.  

As the esteemed CBS anchor, Redford give a winning performance but Blanchett is irresistible as the ambitious news producer driven by the demons of an abusive childhood.  Much like another investigative journalist also played by Blanchett,  Veronica Guerin, Ms Mapes could have no complaints about her portrayal here, although as Vanderbilt’s script is based on her account of events, this is hardly surprising (Ms Guerin however, as detailed in Joel Schumacher's 2003 film, was murdered for her troubles). 

For Australian audiences there are extra reasons to be cheerful as quite a few locals actors appear (the film was largely shot in the Fox Studios in Sydney) with Noni Hazlehurst front and centre as Stacy Keach's wife and DOP Mandy Walker giving the film a suitably high-toned look.

Although one suspects that there is a considerable slippage between what we see on screen and what happened in real life (aside from the question of whether George W. did actually benefit from friends in high places, which let’s face, would hardly be inconsistent), Truth works splendidly as a political thriller and if the facts are romanticized, in the service of old-fashioned heroism that’s not such a bad thing. I’m sure Ms Mapes would agree.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst