Film Review – Truth
Truth tells the story of a 60 Minutes story controversy that happened in 2004. The film is based on the memoir of 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes entitled Truth and Duty: The Press, The President, and The Privilege of Power. Producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) and her team of investigators and writers, Mike Smith (Topher Grace), Lt. Colonel Roger Charles (Dennis Quaid), and Lucy Scott (Elisabeth Moss), work on an evolving story of the possibility that President George W. Bush lied about his National Guard service. To begin with, the paper trail for Bush’s service is not consistent, but the discovery of letters from a National Guard supervisor brings the issue to head and provides damning evidence. What happens is that these letters are copies and cannot be vetted as much as originals. Further details come to light that ends up affecting the careers of all involved and 60 Minutes and CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford).
Truth is not an investigative documentary, but a dramatic retelling of the events from mostly one perspective, Mary Mapes. It certainly is interesting to see the process of building the 60 Minutes story from start to finish. However, the speed at which the story is put together and the pressures of the election make for a ticking time bomb that is ready to blow (and, unfortunately, it does). It was interesting to me how little is needed to confirm/vet a piece of evidence for a story. It is possible that the standards have changed in light of this controversy, but another 60 Minutes story had similar issues in 2013.
The biggest problem I had with what actually happened was with the third-party panel that was convened to investigate the research and production of the story. The members of the panel, including Lawrence Lanpher (Dermott Mulroney), attacked and questioned just about everything they could. Their final victim is Mary Mapes, the ultimate scapegoat of all the things that went wrong.
The downfall of the story is dramatic and shows how the internet bloggers of more than ten years ago played an important part in fact-checking and calling out what may be wrong. Had the internet not been around, the issues with the story may have fallen to the wayside.
The film itself is compelling and well told. Cate Blanchett is obviously a great actress and she is determined and strong in her portrayal of Mary Mapes. She has a hint of a Southern accent, seriously nice-coifed hair, and a strong eyeliner game that I wish I could replicate. Her relationship and connection with Robert Redford’s Dan Rather comes across as father/daughter relationship, which is explained further in the film. This relationship is so well-portrayed that it had me tearing up at the end. Did I ever think I would be emotional about this type of film? Definitely not.
Truth is not a film you have to see in the theatre, but it is a film worth seeing to feel and see the political climate at the time and the pressure put on journalists to make a compelling piece. The downfall of all those involved in this 60 Minutes story is quite unbelievable. “Heads will roll,” is an apt phrase for this entire film, both with the story’s research, investigation. and the aftermath. Truth is something this film’s story grapples with and is certainly never realized.