Investigative journalism has been the subject of many films. “All The President’s Men” was Director Alan Pakula’s 1976 paean to Bob Woodard (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein ( Dustin Hoffman) as they took on the facts of the 1972 Watergate burglary. “The Insider” was Al Pacino and Russel Crowe and big tobacco. “Shattered Glass” was the 2003 expose on The New Republic and plagiarism. To add to a very long list, “Truth” delves into CBS’s 60 minute producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) and CBS anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) as they question and report on whether George W. Bush fulfilled his six-year National Guard Duty commitment.
Based on Mapes’ book, “Truth And Duty: The Press,The President and The Privilege Of Power”, this film with the help of three directors :James Vanderbilt, Michael Cramer, and Troy Stroughton delivers a Polonius -themed picture. Being true to yourself means like night following day that you can not then be false to any man.
Mary Mapes is a fast talking, forceful producer who is fired because the burden of proof is put on her shoulders. It is not enough for her to ask the question: she must be able to deliver the answer. Cate Blanchett ‘s performance is nuanced and timely. She can do steaming and catatonic. Her fingers run through her hair in frustration and weariness, her leg shakes up and down,yet her spirit is in focus. A pressured and professional woman,she is a wife and mother overcoming a wretched childhood where she was abused and bullied by her father. She is collegial and emotionally undone when her team is asked to resign. In one telling scene, Blanchett stomps her heels in long strides as she passes by a bank of walled television screens, all capturing Dan Rather’s apology for bad fact-checking. He later steps down as anchor,but tells Mary that she did not cause this. Blanchett’s statement to the review panel is an Oscar monologue. Her rhetorical “do you know how hard it would be to forge those memos” and her subsequent diatribe, outstanding. The fact that there was no stenographer present and no official record of the panel proceedings is made evident.
Robert Redford does some of his best work as he masters the cadences and speech pattern of Dan Rather. His movements and small tics remind us that Redford is an exceptional actor. His philosophizing and eulogizing of the past mark another grand homage to when “reporting the news was a duty-a trust.” News is now seen as a profit center like teaching when it becomes a for profit business. When Dan tells Mary to FEA ( fuck them all) ,we believe she was courageous. Mary took criticism and never thought she was perfect. Blanchett’s face reflected this when her faulty source’s wife delivered her “I don’t destroy and humiliate people to save myself ” slap back.
Toper Grace as Mike Smith, fledgling 60 Minute team-reporter,delivers a grand supporting role. His admiration of Rather and Mapes and his profession shows idealistic passion. Dennis Quaid and Stacy Keach and Bruce Greenwood all are stellar in their roles. Greenwood as Andrew Heywood, President of CBS News, is multi-dimensional. He “wanted Dan to survive this”, while he “cleaned the rest of the house”.
The George Bush and John Kerry bid for the presidential election was never an non-issue in “Truth”. Viacom and Karl Rowe are mentioned . Much is made about document examiners and authentication and reporting on reporters reporting, but the over-riding theme is never to stop asking the questions. Curiosity is everything. Journalists must keep fighting for the answers. Mary Mapes did ,and she received The Peabody Award after her firing from CBS. Abu Ghraib and prisoner abuse she uncovered. Her courage is recorded in “Truth”.