It was a momentous time in journalism when a 2004 60 Minutes II piece questioning the military record of then-President George W. Bush blew up in everyone’s face and caused a mini-earthquake at CBS. And now the whole affair has been turned into a feature film based on 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes’ bestseller, Truth And Duty: The Press, The President And The Privilege Of Power. It has been 10 years since the book was published, but as I say in my video review (click the link above), the film version starring Cate Blanchett in a blistering turn as Mapes and Robert Redford as legendary CBS anchor Dan Rather is well worth the wait.
Written by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), who also makes his directorial debut, Truth certainly is told more from the POV of Mapes. But at its core it really is about the search for the “truth” itself, something that can be elusive. The plot revolves around a now-infamous report Mapes produced and collaborated on with Rather that explored and questioned the military record of Bush and his service in the Texas National Guard that kept him from going to Vietnam.
What seemed like a solid piece — though rushed to air to be timely — turned out not so good when commenters on the Internet began questioning the authenticity of some key points. It started a firestorm. The whole thing became a black eye in CBS’ view and Mapes, and finally Rather, were basically thrown under the bus. It began Rather’s downfall at the network. Vanderbilt has meticulously laid it all out, without turning anyone into heroes or villains. What I found most interesting was this all happened just as the Internet was gaining power and turning journalism as we knew it on its face. Five or 10 years earlier, the outcome might have been quite different.
Blanchett, who also is terrific in the upcoming Carol, should rate strong Oscar consideration again for her brilliant interpretation of Mapes. After seeing the film, even Rather himself said he felt like he was actually watching Mapes. The same goes for Redford. I was surprised to hear an icon like the actor would take on another icon like Rather, but he does so very successfully without resorting to impersonation, while still getting to the essence of the news anchor. In fact, he doesn’t make any attempt to look like Rather at all, but after five minutes I felt I was watching him anyway. He really gets the cadence and delivery down pat. It is one of Redford’s best screen turns in years. There’s also a first-rate supporting cast including Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss and particularly Topher Grace very fine as members of Mapes’ producing team. Stacy Keach also scores as a key interviewee whose actions turn everything upside down.
Producers are Brad Fischer, Doug Mankoff, William Sherak, Brett Ratner, Andrew Spaulding and Vanderbilt. Sony Pictures Classics puts the film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, in limited release beginning Friday.
Do you plan to see Truth? Let us know what you think.