Despite the underlying importance of its subject matter, Truth is nothing more than a slog to sit through from start to finish. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt of Zodiac fame seems to have headed down somewhere else afterward and now with him going behind the camera, what could only have come up was something that’d go either way on the map. In the case of Truth, something frustrating comes along and in turn dampens the impact of what was said to come afterward. There’s a fascinating story going behind it, and quite frankly it’s the underplaying of the subject matter that keeps it from being much more as a whole.
Based on Mary Mapes’s memoir Truth or Duty, this feature film adaptation stars Cate Blanchett as Mapes during the last days of news anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) on CBS News. Taking place in the times before the 2004 election, Mary Mapes, who was the producer of 60 Minutes, sought out to uncover preferential treatment in favour of George Bush that would result in a second term for him. There’s an interesting story being covered here especially when it comes to what ideas would come out, going around from how reliable a news source really is to what this sort of influence would have upon the public, but many potential ideas that can ever be raised even a slight bit on Truth‘s end are dismissed.
Cate Blanchett is the star of this vehicle, but given the fact that the good lot of the film revolves around how she maneuvers as Mary Mapes through this trial, it’s no surprise that she would have all the attention. In a very dedicated performance, Blanchett offers all that she can and ultimately it is within her energy the film remains ever nearly half as watchable as it is. Robert Redford, on the other hand, feels rather fine in his position, but many other cast members feel far too interchangeable because of the lack of significance they seem to carry. Perhaps it may not be surprising on Topher Grace’s end but looking upon what Elisabeth Moss has left, there’s too little impact carried because she disappears at one point only to reappear in a minor scene.
On a narrative level, Truth just finds itself rarely ever sure of itself. At parts it feels like it wants to become just as important as the story itself but it falls less than engaging in that regard because it feels more like a cut-out project than anything. It could very well be the fault of James Vanderbilt’s own direction, but knowing this was only his first time behind the camera, it seems like he’s going based off of how he’s wording everything in his script and the effort behind what we are shown feels rather minimal, and just lacking of anything noteworthy. It was clear too that he was trying to mimic what the fantastic Zodiac had treated to his own script (which was brilliant), but the nuances are never nearly as compelling as what Fincher had provided.
Given the film’s subject matter and what sort of impact it would have carried upon America during the time in which it was set, the most disappointing thing about Truth is that everything feels as if it is played so safely. The docudrama approach that Vanderbilt applies doesn’t help by much but if anything it only goes to show how he only wishes to tiptoe around what more the subject could have gotten into. It would be hard enough trying to show such a story without trying to give the impression a political bias or leaning is being emphasized but it seems Vanderbilt is trying far too hard in the case of Truth and thus it just stints exploration behind the actual figures that could have made for a more compelling effort.
It’s amazing how a film with such great performances (especially with Cate Blanchett in the leading role) teaches one so little about a story that could very well have left such a big mark upon modern American history. But it seems to be the fault of James Vanderbilt at hand here because he seems to take an approach far too conventional and safe for its own good and only stints a real impact it could ever have left upon its viewers. Of course during that same year, Spotlight, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture was another film about journalism that even had its own fair share of problems but at least it never seemed to move within the safe direction that Vanderbilt applied to this boring drab went on to get all the attention just as this Blanchett performance went on to be overshadowed by her own role in the magnificent Carol.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Sony Pictures Classics.
Directed by James Vanderbilt
Screenplay by James Vanderbilt, from the memoir Truth and Duty by Mary Mapes
Produced by Mikkel Bondesen, Brad Fischer, Doug Mankoff, Brett Ratner, William Sherak, Andy Spaulding, James Vanderbilt
Starring Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach, Dennis Quaid
Release Year: 2015
Running Time: 125 minutes