#LFF 2015 BFI London Film Festival: TRUTH Review

Posted on Oct 19 2015 - 8:58pm by Andy Caley


Director: James Vanderbilt

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Elizabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach, John Benjamin Hickey, David Lyons, Dermot Mulroney and Rachael Blake

Rating: R/15

Running Time: 121 minutes

It’s usually the case that when a film is surrounded by controversy before its release, the chances are, it won’t live up to audience’s expectations of the shock-factor. A case in point, THE INTERVIEW: for a brief period, cinemas chose not to exhibit Seth Rogen and James Franco’s comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un because of the terrible threats that spawned from the Sony hack. And then, when it was finally decided that THE INTERVIEW should be given a theatrical release, everyone was able to see it in the cinema. The verdict? There were a few chuckles in there, but it wasn’t as outrageous as its background. Now, we have TRUTH, which, although a much better film than THE INTERVIEW, suffers from the same problem. Despite all the controversy with the subject matter with which TRUTH handles, as well as the film itself (CBS refusing to air any trailers of the film on its channel due to how they’re portrayed), it’s told in such a glossy, Hollywoodized way that there are very few actual edges to the movie that is causing such hullabaloo.

Based on the book, Truth and Duty by Mary Mapes, TRUTH tells the story of the bright and determined Mapes (Cate Blanchett), the producer of Dan Rather’s (Robert Redford) 60 Minutes on CBS. When they and their research team discover a series of irregularities in former President George W. Bush’s military records, they decide to pursue this line of investigation, questioning whether Bush received special treatment that led him to evade the Vietnam draft. However, they broadcast the explosive story right in the middle of election year, in which Bush is a forerunner. With so many unanswered questions, powerful conservative supporters, and conspiracy theorists attack the show and the team behind it, forcing, not just an investigation of the research team, but a lynching.

It is fairly obvious that the director and writer of TRUTH, James Vanderbilt’s previous works include THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series because there is a sense of the formulaic superhero movie in his directorial debut; good guys versus bad guys, eye-rolling dialogue, a plot that is very polished with all loose ends tied up, you know the drill. That’s not to say that the story on which it is based, Mapes’s book, isn’t an extraordinary tale, because it is. This film just happens to tell it in a very perfunctory way. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; TRUTH is clearly playing the story straight as broadly as it possibly can to attract the widest audience to witness the injustices. But, Vanderbilt plays it so straight that he overlooks the opportunities for him to dig deep into the very concept of truth and deception of the labyrinthine political system, choosing to keep the narrative as no more than functional, lacking the wit and invention of something like ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN.

But, there are still elements in TRUTH that make the film noteworthy. Unsurprisingly, one of them is Cate Blanchett. She is fantastic as Mapes, mixing a combination of Jesse Eisenberg’s quick-witted Mark Zuckerberg in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and her Oscar-winning, emotionally unstable (to say the least) performance as Jasmine in BLUE JASMINE. Her presence always adds a sense of gravitas, but here, she is the hammy script’s saving grace. According to the end credits, Robert Redford plays Dan Rather. He doesn’t. He plays Robert Redford. But, that’s not a criticism; Redford brings to the role of Rather his natural charisma and charm, which makes him essentially playing himself unbothersome. However, it’s Rather and Mapes’s surrogate father-daughter relationship that is the character focal point. Mapes’s biological father is shown to be a despicable person, and Rather is an authoritative, kind and caring long-time colleague of Mapes’s, which slots him suitably into the father figure that has been left absent. The chemistry between Blanchett and Redford allow them to carry off this relationship effectively.

TRUTH is a film that has in it one of the most ground-breaking stories in journalism and politics, but it is placed on the clichéd train, heading to Unremarkablesville. What should have been the new ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, has in fact become Marvel Does Politics. As I said, it’s not terrible, and there are some terrific performances from the lead roles. But, with such controversy both surrounding the film and its subject matter, one would expect TRUTH to get its hands a little dirtier.


TRUTH is out now in US cinemas, and a UK release date is yet to be confirmed.

[youtube width=”710″ height=”505″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqOz8-Sto1g[/youtube]

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