This week’s review is the directorial debut of Zodiac, White House Down, and Spider-Man screenwriter James Vanderbilt and stars Robert Redford as Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes. It’s about 60 Minutes and journalistic integrity, but even with that level of star power, are you going to want to handle truth? Video review here:
and here is my exclusive interview with director, James Vanderbilt:
Full review transcript:
Blanchett as Mapes and Redford as Rather are yet another heretofore unconsidered yet decidedly brilliant onscreen partnership, making the father-daughter like relationship of mutual respect the highlight of the film. The casting of Redford as Rather seems odd, given both the actor and newscaster have such vocal and facial recognition. Redford, even as famous as he is, has always been underrated in his ability for nuance. In TRUTH, he doesn’t overtly mimic Rather’s mannerisms. He effects subtle corrections from his own signature moves and expressions to capture the spirit of the famed Texan anchorman. Blanchett as Mapes turns in one of the best performances of the year. It is not nearly as open to scrutiny, given Mary Mapes as a producer operated largely behind the scenes, but physically, she inhabits her completely. Watching some of the rare footage of Mapes on a political talk show means acknowledging just how much she did so. Every hand gesture, flip of the hair, or turn of her head is a spot-on mirror of the woman. She has depth, too, playing a woman who is attempting to stay focused while under the gun both at work and in the media.
James Vanderbilt, who cut his teeth as screenwriter for movies like Zodiac, White House Down, and The Amazing Spiderman, chose his subject matter out of passion for journalism. He said in an interview with me if he only ever directed one film, he wanted it to be this one. There’s no question he attempts to make clear how journalist worked in the recent past, and what it was and COULD be with support and hard work. Those curious about how a story is built, and the change from traditional journalism to what it’s morphed into through the internet and social media (which i call REPEATING, not REPORTING) will find Truth fascinating, if oversimplified.
Unfortunately, there is a decided statement-film vibe permeating the whole movie, which might have been nearly impossible to avoid. Regardless of what the actual truth is around the devolution of Mape’s news story and the story itself, since the movie revolves around Mapes, it has to follow her experience, and be unapologetically on her side. Even the most left-leaning in the audience is left wondering how things could have been done differently, which would be great after the film is over, but not as a distraction to getting entirely invested in the proceedings as they unfold. It is obvious, as the film is based on Mapes’s book “Truth and Duty”, that there is an underlying attempt at vindicating her work at the time. The audience may find themselves vacillating between asking questions about a story that may or may not expose the truth, or may really be about journalists failing in a spectacular way, and committing to watching great actors Blanchett and Redford plying their craft. While it’s not flawless, having Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett onscreen should make us curious at least to see and hear the TRUTH.