Magazine article Screen International

'Truth': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Truth': Review

Article excerpt

Dir/scr. James Vanderbilt. US, 2015, 125 mins.

A glut of films which pay tribute to the work of crusading reporters arrives into the marketplace this awards season, even as that marketplace is increasingly abandoning traditional investigative journalism. Black Mass and Spotlight came to the screen via the Boston Globe in one form or another; now Truth is based on the story behind a CBS 60 Minutes report into President Bush's draft-dodging record which led to the end of Dan Rather's CBS career; he's played here by Robert Redford, who starred in the grand-daddy of investigative journalism films, All The Presidents Men.

Truth will face challenges - this chewy screenplay is of far greater interest to American viewers than international audiences not quite so familiar with the story, the network, the programme, or the characters involved, although Dan Rather has global name recognition. And you can't help but feel that Aaron Sorkin could have cut through all the initial slabs of exposition in a deftepisode of Newsroom, even as James Vanderbilt's debut stretches out to just over two hours. But despite its awkward start, the film grows significantly in stature, thanks mainly to its two headlining stars who hit all the right notes. Redford reaches the perfect register for Rather, and Cate Blanchett rises to the challenge of portraying his nervy producer and confidante Mary Mapes; "old media" stars who were devoured by a "new media" storm.

The combined appeal of Redford and Blanchett and Truth's worthy material should secure upmarket distribution worldwide and themed festival play where it will appeal to all those nostalgic for the good old days of crusading journalism (although they prefer to tweet about it these days). Truth is unlikely to have much resonance with the American right wing, though it wil provoke debate as intended and re-ignite the story as the US presidential election heats up. Good Night And Good Luck is a clear recent benchmark, and US distributor SPC (the project was sold internationally by FilmNation), may similarly gamble on an awards play for its cast.

Truth is the directorial debut of writer James Vanderbilt (who penned David Fincher's Zodiac about the San Francisco Chronicle's investigation into a serial killer), and he is clearly fascinated by the mechanics of the delivery of news. It is based on Mapes' own memoir and sticks to her and Rather's party line on the 2004 report which ultimately led to her dismissal from the network and Rather's untimely exit after 24 years as a national icon fronting the nightly news (Rather appeared at the film's Toronto world premiere, where he was visibly moved by the events portrayed onscreen). …

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