Prior to the 2004 US Presidential election, 60 minutes producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) finds what appears to be the scoop of a lifetime: word that George W. Bush did not complete his National service. But her sources prove shakier than she knows…
If last month’s Spotlight showed us what great journalism can achieve, Truth is a counterpoint demonstrating the pitfalls that the modern profession faces. Interference from management, political hostility and the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle combine in a perfect storm here to bring down an institution.
If Spotlight showed us what journalism can achieve, Truth demonstrates the pitfalls that the profession faces.
Blanchett is prickly 60 Minutes news producer Mary Mapes, a protégée of legendary anchorman Dan Rather (Robert Redford). In the run-up to the 2004 election she finds evidence that George W. Bush may have skipped part of his National Guard service, and rushes the story to the screen at the network’s behest. But questions are raised about whether documents key to her claim were forged – and Mapes finds her sources shaky and her career under threat. Instead of harassed-looking people breaking the story of a lifetime, this soon becomes a tale of harassed-looking people being forced to defend an allegation they cannot prove.
Blanchett is as good as you’d expect as a character who is more focused on results than likeability, and she has strong support from Redford in particular – making you wish that the film had focused more on the pair’s interesting partnership, half mentor-mentee and half producer-presenter. But the film, ironically, doesn’t really interrogate its own source, Mapes’ account. And so, despite the rabble-rousing speech at the end, it can’t quite back up its own contentions.
As a counterpoint to the (much better) Spotlight, it’s a fascinating look at modern journalism – but perhaps not always for the reasons its makers intended.