This tense political thriller is not for everyone. Its detail-rich narrative has several different stories merging into one. Its about powerful polarities that divide Americans on Democratic and Republican lines, drawing into focus the hotly disputed reputation of President George W. Bush. It is also about the ethical challenges facing contemporary journalism, using the iconic CBS anchor man Dan Rather as the beacon of integrity in American mass media. And its about a high-profile female journalist Mary Mapes and her battle with the rich and powerful, a story that will earn plaudits from those who love portraits of strong women. Truth also resonates with Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) as a film that challenges the political history of the era, and as every student of feminism knows, history is written by and for men.
The story rests on fine dramatic performances by Cate Blanchett (as Mapes) and Robert Redford (as Rather), aided with cameos by several Australian actors. Mapes and Rather risk everything in pursuit of an inconvenient truth, against a tide of corporate politics where “the deck is stacked and the race is rigged”. The film tries to be even handed, but as the story is based on Mapes’ book it inevitably eulogises her for fighting the good fight alongside Dan Rather. Their investigation relied on key documents that were alleged to be fakes based on wrong font types. This became the smokescreen that enabled Republican sympathisers to almost bring CBS to its knees and thereby divert attention from how the young George Bush may have been sheltered from military duty.
To its credit, this tangled story leaves the accusation about Bush inconclusive amidst the ruins of two stellar careers. What remains is a gripping tale told from Mapes’ viewpoint about the exhilaration of the hunt for big game and the carnage that follows if you pull the wrong lion’s tail. It is also a warning about what democracy stands to lose if independent minded journalists are blocked from asking difficult questions.
Director: James Vanderbilt
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid