Film Review: Truth


A fascinating media story gets big screen treatment in James Vanderbilt’s Truth. The film itself is a little overblown to be truly great.

In 2004, producer Mary Mapes and her team set about researching George W. Bush’s military service for a 60 Minutes report. The team attempt to verify sources for their story, unaware of the storm of criticism that will follow…

Based on Mary Mapes’ book, Truth tells story of 60 Minute report for CBS that was heavily scrutinised for documents it used. The film focuses on the small team behind the report as the pull the CBS programme together, then the subsequent backlash after it airs. Whilst the events took place in 2004 and the furore may be remembered by some, few viewers will be aware of the full extent of the case.

Truth speaks more broadly on the nature of new media, through the microcosm of one particular story. This wider perspective has not lost its relevance; the film talks as much about contemporary news. Director and writer James Vanderbilt discusses television news and its bias, and highlights the background to the decisions that are made. The subject of the film is undoubtedly thought provoking.

Vanderbilt’s film falters in its over egging of the material. Truth takes a newsroom drama and fabricates a melodrama in the director’s hands. The film’s score is really ill-fitting, coercing audience to feel emotion in situations where it is not present. Likewise, the slow-motion sequences in depicting people viewing original documentary on television and at the end of the film felt unnecessary. Some of Truth‘s dialogue feels hokey, Dan Rather’s soundbites in particular. Furthermore, some of the exposition seems unnecessary and comes across as jarring as a result. Nevertheless, Mike Smith’s speech towards the end identifies the problem with news reporting to an amplified degree.

Performances in Truth are good overall, with Cate Blanchett as convincing as ever as Mary Mapes. Robert Redford is well cast as Dan Rather, whilst Topher Grace is given little to do until his speech.

With such an interesting and impactful story, Truth could have been magnificent. It is still very watchable, although the film is soured by a push towards sentimentality.

Truth is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2015.