TIFF 2015: Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes in James Vanderbilt's 'Truth'
by Marco Cerritos
September 21, 2015
The CBS News scandal in 2005 that ended anchorman Dan Rather's relationship with the network is put under a microscope in the film Truth, an adult drama that pulls no punches and is massively entertaining. Robert Redford plays the legendary newsman, and seeing him in the role will immediately bring back memories of All the President's Men. Truth never reaches the heights of that previous masterpiece but soars just fine on its own. In fact, writer-turned-director James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Amazing Spider-Man) doesn't even focus his film on Rather, he's a background player to the bigger story. Truth really centers on Mary Mapes, Rather's producer and trusted ally. She's played by Cate Blanchett and her performance is ferocious and unflinching, matching Redford's supporting role and Vanderbilt's screenplay beat for beat.
As the film begins we flash back to 2004, at a time when Rather and Mapes were at the peak of their powers at CBS News. They have just aired their innovative report on Abu Ghraib and are untouchable in the news world. Always up for a challenge, Mapes tackles a mysterious tip on then president George W. Bush. The initial information is fruitless but leads to an actual story once she starts digging further. The layers of data lead straight to the top of the White House and culminate in the now infamous report criticizing Bush on his military record. With the help of an investigate team all facts are checked and everything is ready to go. That's when history happened.
Vanderbilt's screenplay is the real star of Truth, using words as weapons in constant verbal exchanges between our central characters. To the outside world investigative reporting may seem dull and uninteresting but as carefully depicted here it is rigorous and intense work. In addition, Truth makes no apologies for siding with Mapes from the beginning, centering the film on her and practically calling her a national hero for fearless reporting. The movie calls to mind other journalistic dramas like The Insider and this year's own Spotlight, stories about the gathering of information and the worldwide explosion they can command. As Mapes, Blanchett gives another fearless performance taking us into the moralistic highs and lows of her character. Vanderbilt also wisely shows glimpses of her uneven family life warts and all including a very difficult relationship with her abusive father. Redford's supporting turn as Rather is also tough and assertive, painting a man destroyed by the loss of confidence from his network bosses.
Truth shows great promise in its young writer-director, a solid debut that will hopefully have him continue making smart and engaging stories. The cast he has assembled including supporting players Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood, Elisabeth Moss and Topher Grace all work in sync to make the film shine as a whole. That kind of synergy is rare in ensemble dramas and speaks to a highly coordinated effort behind the camera. Their solid work together is to our benefit, making Truth must-see cinematic entertainment.
Marco's TIFF 2015 Rating: B+
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