TRUTH (3.5 out of 10) Directed and Written by James Vanderbilt, based on the book by Mary Mapes; Starring Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach; Rated R for "language and a brief nude photo"; Running time 121 minutes; In limited release October 23, expanding nationwide October 30, 2015.
With as lofty of a title as "Truth" and an attempt to explore modern journalistic ethics, a film really needs to come at you with something impressive. This inside examination of the CBS News documents scandal that ended Dan Rather's career does neither of those. And its all-star cast unfortunately overshadows the people they are portraying.
First? When casting someone as familiar as an evening newscaster who was in peoples' homes on a nightly basis for decades, don't cast someone even more iconic than Dan Rather to play Dan Rather. Robert Redford is great here, but he's always Robert Redford playing Dan Rather. At least in previous, similar forays, no one knew what Bob Woodward looked like, so it was fine to see Redford playing that role. Redford is able to channel that understated Texas charm and slight buttermilk twang, but it just doesn't hit the way, say, Michael Fassbender does playing Steve Jobs, or even Redford playing journalist/author Bill Bryson just a few months ago.
Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, and Elizabeth Moss all try their best to really have fun with their supporting characters, but it unfortunately can't save this film from the weight of its main story and actors not quite gelling. Cate Blanchett is fine as the main character, Mary Mapes, but there just isn't enough on the page to make something compelling. While the film is based on Mapes' firsthand account of what happens, it's unfortunate that they chose to focus on her so much, as she comes through as the least interesting of all of the characters.
All of which is entirely too bad. These events deserved a better story and a better film version of this. While the film makes the strong case (and proves it) that their story was accurate but they merely got caught up in not having more thorough fact-checking and were rushed by a network schedule that valued profit over hard news, they don't tell that story in a compelling fashion. And there's scant little musing about the search for actual Truth in the business of network news.
Compared to this film's peers, like the upcoming "Spotlight", this is just not as good of a film. There is more Truth to be found in the fictionalized world of Atlantis Cable News on Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom" than this story of an actual event.
It's all so tragic. Dan Rather deserved better. Mary Mapes deserved better. America deserved better. The Truth deserved better. Audiences deserve better.
3.5 out of 10
Tags: Robert Redford