HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:71
Political scandals and journalists digging to the heart of an issue isn’t anything new. Robert Redford became very famous (or at least MORE famous) after portraying a journalist in “All the President’s Men” where he and a few other people blow the top off of the whole Watergate scandal. He’s gracious, dignified and can play that type of character to a T. In fact his representation of Dan Rather in “Truth” was rather amazingly spot on. Director and Writer James Vanderbilt seems to have a passion for this story, one of the biggest media blunders of the last 20 years, but his obvious personal axe to grind comes into the picture far too much. This results in a film that feels shallow, and is about as INACCURATE as one could possibly imagine if you’ve ever looked into the facts of the case.
It was almost 12 years ago, but I still remember the scandal like it was yesterday being that I was really really into politics and scandals at that time. A mid 20’s young man who gets excited at the very THOUGHT of a conspiracy theory, I dug into all the reports and the theories and findings, and by the end of it Dan Rather and Mary Mapes came up with some pretty outlandish stuff. Stuff that could not be corroborated and in fact STILL can’t be corroborated to this day. Dan Rather has gone on record saying that he knows it’s true because the Bush administration has never come out and denied it.
Rewind back to 2004 and Dan Rather (Robert Redford) is one of the most respected journalists of all time. He’s working for CBS on 60 minutes and his producer, Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) has just uncovered the news story of the decade. Just before election time, she has supposedly found some evidence that President Bush (who was coming up for re-election in 2004) had been completely AWOL in his national guard training and in fact had been likely placed in the national guard as a brand new pilot to get out of Vietnam duty. Running with the story she and her crew, which included gumshoe reporter Mike Smith (Topher Grace), Lt. Colonel Roger Charles (Dennis Quad) as well as teacher Lucy Scott (Elisabeth Moss), all start gathering evidence in a paper trail. Getting second hand info from sources, and creating their tale, they end up airing the news on 60 Minutes.
Shortly after airing the story, evidence starts coming in that the data they compiled was faked. Experts came out of the woodwork and start tearing into the team with merciless glee. Shocked and appalled at the accusations, Mary Mapes and Dan Rather are forced up against a wall as CBS basically throws them under the bus, making Dan Rather apologize for the report and even painting Mapes as being a faulty journalist. To make matters worse, Mapes is put under investigation by a Republican run firm that has ties to President Bush and it appears that a stacked deck is being put in motion to smear Mapes and ruin Dan Rather to cover up the fact that her sources lied to her. What starts out as a witch hunt ENDS as a witch hunt with a whole team of lawyers sneering and jeering at Mapes well thought out defense and leaving the woman’s life in shambles, all to appease a president who is up for re-election.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64370[/img]“Truth” is a semi decent story with some plot holes and weak writing, but what makes this movie a complete shambles is the complete LACK of truth in the whole narrative. It’s true that this story pretty much ruined Dan Rather’s career and ended Mary Mapes career as well. Rather has sued CBS multiple times and gotten nowhere, and Mary has never worked in TV journalism again, but rather wrote a book about her experience. Sadly, that’s the source that Vanderbilt took for his script, so naturally Mary comes out smelling like a rose. In fact Rather, and her entire crew are all portrayed as innocent victims who were lied to and then run under the bus when the lies started coming out. Cate Blanchett spends much of her time scowling angrily at the camera as she defends herself and the rest of the time with a shocked and horrified expression on her face as she’s betrayed by her own studio. Sadly this act is pretty much just that, an act. The 2004 exclusive on 60 minutes wasn’t even that big of a story. It basically accused Bush of staying out of Vietnam by having daddy dear pull a few strings to get him into the National Guard for a vacation. Something that actually is pretty common to this day sadly enough. Had this been substantiated it might have served as negative point against him in his upcoming election, but really it was just a smear campaign that backfired on Mapes and Rather. Their story was originally aired on trust of Mapes sources, but just as quickly as they appeared, those sources dried up and nothing that Mapes and her crew had said could be substantiated. Multiple third party organizations and lawyers came in to vet her story and not a single one of the accusations could be found accurate. Mapes was let go and so was Rather who angrily tried to sue multiple times, but without any success.
Director and Writer James Vanderbilt obviously has an axe to grind as well, as he makes Mapes and Rather into innocent pawns who just tried to tell the truth but the big bad evil “system” was standing over their shoulders the entire way rigging the game. Sources come forth gleefully trying to come out and “right their wrongs” by confessing that Bush got into the National Guard and wasn’t present for much of his training, trying to paint him as some sort of AWOL derelict, when in fact it was nothing but a character attack that is the equivalent of finding out Obama or Clinton smoked weed in college. Everyone is just delighted beyond belief to stick it to the president and the villains are all big bad corporations who is in bed with the current administration. The level of conspiracy theory is about as layered and deep as the ones about Obama being in bed with ISIS and actually sending them instructions on how to attack America. AS someone who has studied the findings and seen the reports on WHY the story was retracted and Dan Rather disgraced, the movie comes off horrifically biased and cheesy. However, that really is not that big of a shock to see why as Vanderbilt took the script from Mapes books, so naturally the story seems to take her side the whole time.
As for the FILM itself, it was pretty good from a technical point of view, but there was too much superficiality and pacing issues to keep it from at least being enjoyable as a work of fiction. The first 1/3rd of the movie deals with Mary and her crew digging up sources and interviewing people, but what should be exciting and intriguing to the viewer feels clinical and very emotionless. There is no spark there and the pieces just fall into place like someone was checking them off from a list. Once the investigation gets under way though, it picks up a tad, but still seems to be stilted and lacking in any direction. What could have been a great commentary on ethics in journalism turns into a conspiracy theory that seems to rage and rant at the screen as if they are trying to vindicated themselves to the audience. “See we were set up!” is the cry, but there is no evidence to the contrary and the obvious bias comes across as childish and empty.
Rated R for language and a brief nude photo
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64378[/img]“Truth” comes to Blu-ray with a very natural looking digital image that doesn’t really sparkle, but remains steadily consistent throughout. There is no real heavy color grading going on, and skin tones look very impressive, so the resulting image is one of the least stylistic images I’ve seen in a while. Suits and ties look like they would in real life and clarity is very well detailed. Facial detail is of course the sharpest, and I did notice some softness to the image for the wide angle shots, especially inside the CBS office and the hotel rooms that Dan Rather visits for his interviews. Blacks are deep enough and show off a goodly amount of detail with minimal crush. There’s some digital noise and light banding here and there, but nothing that would distract the viewer unless they were really focusing on it.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64386[/img]The singular 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is just as serviceable as the video, with a naturally front heavy mix that has a few surprises thrown in for good measure. The dialog is always crisp and clear, with heavy emphasis on clarity, especially during the interviews as Redford (as Rather) vets and interviews the sources from Mapes. Surrounds get some solid activity, and there is even a few moments of heavy duty rumbling bass in a few spots. Especially when the Boeing 747 touches down near the last 30 minutes of the film. It’s not a sparkly or shiny dynamic action track, but it does everything that it’s asked to with the utmost of clarity and precision.
• Featurette: The Team
• Q&A with Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss and James Vanderbilt
• Commentary with Director James Vanderbilt, Producers Brad Fischer and William Sherak
• Deleted Scenes
• Featurette: The Reason For Being
If the scandal behind “Truth” wasn’t so thoroughly covered by multiple different journalistic investigators, I might be more willing to forgive some of the conspiracy theories, but when you’re trying to make a movie about the “Truth” then you might want to make sure that there’s at least SOME modicum of actual truth in the story you’re trying to sell. “Truth” feels more like the director had tin foil hats covering his head while he made the script and then cobbled it together as fast as possible, which is surprising as James Vanderbilt has an impressive resume of films he has directed. Audio and video are solid, with no flaws that I can rag on, and the extras are mildly interesting. If you go into the film expecting a truthful re-enactment of the original 2004 scandal then you will be very disappointed, but if you go in expecting a complete work of fiction it makes for a semi decent rental.
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid
Directed by: James Vanderbilt
Written by: James Vanderbilt (Screenplay), Mary Mapes (Book)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 125 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Recommendation: Low Rental
More about Mike