Just as a thoughtful retirement video or an in memoriam can do, Avi Belkin’s well produced outside-the-box doc Mike Wallace Is Here encapsulates its subject’s career and tells a personal story through archival footage.
60 Minutes newsman Mike Wallace was known for his unapologetic approach to journalism. His unflinching relentlessness during interviews allowed Wallace to establish an open space of honest discussion for celebrities, activists, and world leaders. Not everyone found him to be professional. As shown in the documentary, some refused to believe that what Wallace was pursuing on 60 Minutes could even be considered journalism, and that his investigative reports were too theatrical. Despite his critics, Wallace’s aired submissions would continue to be game-changing for news-based platforms.
Because Belkin is choosing to primarily use recorded evidence to chronicle Mike Wallace’s career, the audience doesn’t receive an in-depth look at his life before television and fame. But, in a way, the documentary confesses to this right away and, therefore, this doesn’t bother us. The film’s timeline is very specific and, because of that, Belkin is able to narrow down and cohesively thread together Wallace’s rise to notoriety. The documentarian and his brilliant editor Billy Mcmillan are also able to find parallels through Wallace’s interviews that reveal an unseen vulnerable side to the journalist. Movie goers watch back-to-back clips of Wallace asking persistent questions, and then defensively walling himself in when other interviewers ask him similar confrontational questions. Likewise for another set of clips that elaborate on the death of Wallace’s elder son, followed by an empathetic interview with Leona Helmsley where he realizes he’s stepped over a personal line when asking about the death of her child. More of Mike’s personal life is also unpacked as an intimate interview with 60 Minutes’ Morley Safer is paired with an assortment of other clips.
Mike Wallace Is Here is more than just a qualified reflection – it’s a proficient and fully layered portrait of a prolific subject.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie