Truth recounts the ‘Killian documents scandal’ of 2004, where an investigative team at CBS uncovered details of George W. Bush’s military record, airing their findings on the 60 minutes news programme. Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) and her team find that not only had Bush avoided service in Vietnam using nepotism to enlist in the prestigious Texas Air Guard, he also went AWOL for over a year. Due to the damaging implications on Bush’s campaign for re-election, the ‘truth’ of the overall story is eclipsed by scrutiny over the copied memos which confirm Bush’s absence as the validity of the documents is brought in to question.
Truth is a less successful version of this year’s Best Picture, Spotlight. Both are true stories illustrating the difficulties of investigative journalism, with realistic characters and a heavy dialogue. Like Spotlight, it does not indulge in impressive cinematography. Truth simply tells the story.
However, for a film to be based on a true story, it has to be a good one. Unfortunately, Truth proves that sometimes reality is less interesting than fiction. For a film about investigative journalism, the amount of digging is short-lived, and the extent to which their findings unravel is fairly limited. In absence of further developments, the film focuses heavily on the documents, ironically committing the same crime as the media, detracting attention from the wider truth.
Blanchett carries the film from start to finish. Sardonic and irritable, Blanchett exposes every facet of Mapes’ personality, creating a relatable and complex character. Her rich portrayal of Mapes’ sharp intelligence and passion has us on side from the beginning. She is strikingly human, illustrated as she crumbles under pressure before our very eyes, subject to vicious personal attacks.
Robert Redford’s Dan Rather, excellently supports Blanchett. He portrays Rather with convincing likeness, depicting his professionalism and amicable charm and bringing a light touch to a serious drama. The rest of the team, interact naturally, with a sense of camaraderie which drives the film’s defiant spirit.
Despite the fact the Bush exposé is more limited than one would hope, the element of censorship is what makes this film important. The intrusive investigation into the competence of the team, and the toll it takes on Mapes is gripping. Truth still holds a serious message about the state of modern journalism, highlighting the dangerous impact of politics and money on the media.
Image: Gage Skidmore; Flickr.com