James Vanderbilt’s “Truth” examines the scandal that erupted after CBS Nightly News anchor Dan Rather ran a “60 Minutes” segment asserting that President George W. Bush used family connections to avoid combat in Vietnam and never fulfilled his tenure in the Texas Air National Guard. If this report had not been subsequently discredited, it might have tipped the 2004 Presidential election to Democrat John Kerry. Read on…
When I studied journalism at Mills College under Pierre Salinger, working at the “San Francisco Chronicle,” he insisted that the veracity of controversial stories be corroborated by two independent sources. But what if those sources lie?
That’s what happened to Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett), Rather’s (Robert Redford) longtime producer. Responsible for finding and scrutinizing on-air pieces, Mapes is curious about the Bush allegations. Encouraged by CBS News president Andrew Heyward (Bruce Greenwood), she begins to investigate.
Assembling her team (Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace), Mapes embarks on exhaustive research.
Hurried to an early air-date, their reporting – which may have been accurate – nevertheless, contains basic journalistic flaws involving document analysis and an erratic source, Bill Burkett (Stacy Keach).
Yet – as of now – basic questions still have not been answered: how did George W. Bush, who was not a pilot, get into the Guard and why was he excused from duty on the base to which he was assigned?
Based on Mary Mapes’ “Truth and Duty: The Press, The President, and the Privilege of Power” (2005), screenwriter James Vanderbilt (“White House Down,” “Zodiac”) makes an auspicious directing debut with this layered, detailed condemnation of how Internet obsession with minutia/gossip has obliterated the big picture – and responsible reporting cannot be rushed.
Despite its inherent complexity, it’s constructed with clarity and superbly cast. Robert Redford doesn’t resemble Dan Rather, yet he adroitly captures his distinctive gestures and vocal inflections, while Cate Blanchett deserves an Oscar as Best Actress for her impeccably vulnerable, compelling performance.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Truth” is an intense, tantalizing 10, delving into the deplorable decline of modern journalism.