There is an old saying which has often been repeated: “There is my truth, there is your truth, there is the actual truth, and everyone else’s.” Its this idea of the concept of “truth” that is dealt with in the movie Truth, which deals with the 2004 CBS report on Former President George W. Bush’s national guard service. For those that do not remember, the report was released a few months before the election saying that Bush received special favors while serving in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. However, it turned out that the documents and witnesses supporting this allegation were not true or falsified. This fallout eventually resulted in the resignation of Dan Rather and the firing of Producer Mary Mapes (portrayed here by Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett). Truth not only deals with the fallout of this report, but also the consequences of reporting the truth to the American people.
One of the interesting ideas Truth presents is the idea of old vs. new journalism. In one scene Rather tells Mapes that in agreement for the networks to broadcast, the government required them to report the news and serve as a public good to the American people. This is an interesting idea and it shows what Truth is trying to say: that the news has to always work for the american people and how with the new rise of 24 hour news cable networks, blogs, and internet postings, the news has become much more about “truthiness” than the actual truth. For example, in a telling scene that reflects how the news is run today, Mapes’ estranged father is shown talking to Fox News saying that she is some “Feminazi Liberal” who is trying to betray her country. The fact that her own father would do this to his daughter shows how the discourse in America and the truth has been bogged down by people who only care about their own truth, and not the actual truth.
Another strong point of the film is the acting, especially Redford and Blanchett. It is really great to see two of our greatest film performers play off each other, and Blanchett hits the right notes as Mapes. She can be absolutley enthralling as an actress and the way she uses all of her body to convey her performance is remarkable. Redford is also good as Dan Rather; he definitely knows how to effectively portray a hard-hitting newsman, but also bring out the humanity in Rather.
While the above themes represent an interesting of the film, a major detraction is how towards the end, the movie becomes too preachy. In Mapes’ final tirade towards the committee that is investigating the Bush story, Mapes makes a tirade about how you cannot do a story anymore and how everything is now meant to appease people and not report actual news. This felt to me that Truth was sort of ripping off the far superior Network, and you can tell that Network’s influence really extends into the film. We even have an obligatory “mad as hell” speech delivered by Topher Grace against his bosses in the CBS offices. This tends to be a bit derivative and even kind of corny at times. Another major issue is that you can tell the filmmakers are still angry that Bush won re-election in 2004 and are trying to prove a point that Bush lied.
While I understand that movies can have a political agenda, I found this to be a bit alienating considering that the story was officially retracted by CBS. I do not know whether or not the Bush administration really did set out to screw over CBS as the movie implies, but I do know that it is in the past. It is time to move forward, and realize that what is past is past, and ultimately we cannot change it, regardless of who owns the truth.
Final Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.