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New Release Review - TRUTH

Dramatisation of the controversy that ended the career of news anchor Dan Rather.



Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: James Vanderbilt

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Elizabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach



Redford never quite convinces as Rather, but this is Blanchett's film; it's just a shame the finest performance of one of our greatest actors had to be hidden away in such an otherwise bland movie.



At this time of year we've become accustomed to biopics and dramatisations of real life events as filmmakers make their bids for Oscar glory. With so many movies competing, there are always a few inevitable casualties left nursing their wounds. This year, Truth is arguably the biggest loser. On paper, everything about this screams Oscar bait - it's based on real life events; its protagonist is a liberal attempting to take down a Republican president; and it stars Cate Blanchett - yet somehow it hasn't gotten a look in.
It's a fairly mediocre movie, but when has that ever hampered a movie's chances at picking up a few statuettes? What it does boast though is arguably the finest performance Cate Blanchett has given in her career so far, and that's really saying something. While Blanchett is nominated for Best Actress for what could be argued is closer to a supporting turn in Carol, that seems to have cancelled out her great work here, which, once the dust settles, may be looked back on as one of Oscar's great travesties.
Blanchett plays Mary Mapes, the disgraced 60 Minutes producer who found herself at the centre of a scandal in the run-up to the 2004 election. Mapes came into possession of a series of documents regarding George W Bush's time as a Texas National Guard pilot during the Vietnam war, the implication being that strings were pulled to keep Dubya from being sent to the war zone. Mapes aired her findings in a 60 Minutes special, hosted by CBS chief news anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford), and lapped up the initial praise. This should have been the story that cemented her career, but the following day Mapes found herself at the centre of one the greatest controversies to ever hit the US media. As it turned out, the documents were faked on a recent edition of Microsoft Word.
Truth shares a similarity with the recent Trumbo biopic in presenting a liberal protagonist and dancing around the subject of her beliefs and motivations. Writer-director James Vanderbilt attempts to portray Mapes as a victim, of both her own blind ambition and the broadcasting system, but at the end of the day she committed a pretty reprehensible act, no matter what side of the political divide you view this from. As such, Mapes is a shell of a character, but while Vanderbilt never allows us into her head, Blanchett's performance fills in a lot of the gaps. The Australian is outstanding here in a portrayal of an initially arrogant woman whose assumed invincibility begins to quickly crumble. At times it's uncomfortable to watch the level of intimacy and vulnerability she creates, particularly in a brief phone call to her estranged father and a desperate visit to a lawyer.
Redford never quite convinces as Rather, and a couple of fatherly lectures to Mapes sound more like Redford expressing his own views than those of his character. Vanderbilt has assembled a stellar supporting cast, but the likes of Elizabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood and Dennis Quaid are given little to do. But this is Blanchett's film; it's just a shame the finest performance of one of our greatest actors had to be hidden away in such an otherwise bland movie.
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