By: Trevor Jeffery
Truth is a factually interesting docudrama, with the unfortunate side effect of also being a huge downer – how can you chippily walk away from a film if its thesis is essentially “modern journalism is dead”?
It’s 2004, just months before the American Presidential election, and Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) has got a story. And as a producer for CBS’s documentary/news series 60 Minutes, she’s got a platform. She’s uncovered that there are some inconsistencies with then-president George W. Bush’s military records – in that he went AWOL for well over a year without disciplinary action. Having documents and testimonials to back it up, her team puts together a whammy of a news story about his preferential treatment for both his acceptance into the National Guard and his time serving in it that ruffles some Republican plumage. The story is put under heavy scrutiny when it turns out the documents may (as in, the slight possibility) have been fabricated. Mary finds herself as the target in a huge political media war as the Bush/Kerry Election Day closes in.
James Vanderbilt’s Truth is more of an enacted telling of true events rather than a dramatization of said events. It’s an important part of American politics and journalism and an all-around interesting (if not a wee-bit biased) look at how the media works in conjunction with the government. But, save for a few minutes of emotional connections characters share throughout the two-hour regaling, Truth is more or less void of emotional drama – likely from being too influenced by its own story and paying too much tribute to the details and accuracies.
It moves quickly, which is nice, but it blows through information and names that you can only hope aren’t crucially relevant to the story. Unfortunately, sometimes they are and you’re left with your own guesses for a little while. This is made up for by the near perfect pacing and structure of the film – if a character is important, you’ll know within two scenes.
Everybody involved with the production brings life to Truth. The cast brings emotion and warmth to a film that is mostly devoid of heart – particularly Robert Redford as Dan Rather, America’s stern but understanding grandfather. Blanchett leads the film with a stunning performance, both physically and, yes emotionally – there’s just no opportunity for her to emotionally connect with someone else in the script. The interesting and endearing father-daughter type relationship between Rather and Mapes is merely hinted at, and is the folly of the film to have not explored it further. Even the camera does its best to enhance the emotion of the story, but it can’t add character drama where there isn’t any.
Truth is without a doubt a technical achievement and an effective social and political commentary. But where’s the human connection?
Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:
Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery