Truth Review

Whilst most of my interest in watching Truth is based off of Robert Redford’s inclusion, I do think my studying of journalism at University has added a bit more interest in the project. More so than I would have first expected, especially since in recent years, Truth hasn’t exactly become the modern-day All the President’s Men. Based on the true story of CBS’ 60 Minutes broadcast in which anchorman Dan Rather brings allegations of sitting President George W. Bush’s military service into question. Doubt settled in, controversy began to spark, and those at the centre of the reporting found themselves backpedalling, with desperation taking control. Truth looks to adapt that, with the blessing of Rather himself, in the debut feature of James Vanderbilt. 

It’s a cookie-cutter political biopic that runs through the facts with a rinsing of dramatics and relative unease. There’s little interest throughout, which is a real shame given the formidably strong cast. Redford is no stranger to the political genre, with 1972s The Candidate springing to mind as one of his more engaging features. Here, he plays Dan Rather, with the absolute bare minimum of effort. He shares the screen with Topher Grace and Cate Blanchett a couple of times giving them sage advice, interviews a couple of political caricatures and recreates some CBS 60 Minutes clips. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, and that’s just the problem. Competently made and solid performances, but they have no emotion in them, they’re all just bland, expressionless moments that feel lukewarm the whole way through. 

The actual journalism at hand is brushed over with such limited detail that it feels like there’s no point to it at all. We jump from one big revelation to the next with an almost instantaneous narrative, with no downtime or highlighting of how investigative journalism works. Flashy Hollywood moments that feel artificially condensed, moments that have no real sway in regards to the story, but attempt to build up our characters in as traditional a standard as possible. Lots of meetings between static characters, cliché dialogue that keeps our characters under a faux feeling of consistent pressure, it’s a wholly naïve production that never actually digs into the deep, interesting pockets of the real-world story.  

That’s not to say Truth is without positives, though, they’re just very limited. Cate Blanchett’s leading role as Mary Mapes, the journalist who first broke the allegations on Bush’s alleged falsifications in the US military. Some of the supporting performances throughout are great, and it’s those that stick around for a mere two or three scenes that really steal the show. Stacy Keach as Bill Burkett, in particular, sticks out as one of the few glimmers of hope in this muddled adaptation. 

Whilst Truth is a musing on how facts can be spun to support either side, there’s little to no weight for the actions many of these characters helm. There’s a clear disconnect between the genuinely interesting aspects of the story, and Vanderbilt’s constant need to have a shocking revelation around every corner. With some better pacing and a much-needed brush-up to the writing, Truth could’ve been a superbly fascinating, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Instead, we get a messy Bush-era journalism fiasco without the atmosphere or edge needed to craft a competent re-telling.  

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