Written and directed by James Vanderbilt, Truth dramatises the Killian documents controversy during the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, in which it was speculated that documents broadcast by CBS News criticising George W Bush’s Air National Guard service in the 1970s could have been fabricated.
Cate Blanchett is journalist and news producer Mary Mapes, who – alongside Robert Redford’s long serving CBS evening news anchor Dan Rather – assembles a crack team of maverick journalists.
These – comprised of Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace and Elizabeth Moss (in a curiously underwritten role) – break a story that has the potential to derail the divisive president’s campaign.
As Zodiac screenwriter Vanderbilt’s directorial debut, he has yet to find a distinct authorial style. But he does succeed in injecting drama into a tale mostly depicted through hurried phone calls and urgent keyboard-bashing – and where one of the major plot-points hinges on the finer points of typeface.
This is a film of close-ups: close-ups of Blanchett’s face twisted in consternation, close-ups of computer screens; of leaked documents; of perspiring faces caught in the unforgiving glare of the studio spotlight.
Based on Mapes’ 2005 book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power it’s clear where the film’s politics lie, but Vanderbilt does manage to leave some grey areas in what could have been a po-faced polemic – even eliciting a few laughs early in the runtime.
The final act does threaten to fall victim to its own self-righteous didacticism, seeking to give its protagonists the vindication that history failed to provide with one too many syrupy slow-motion shots, and grandstanding monologues.
What Truth does capture – like recent Oscar-contender Spotlight – is the journalistic thrill of breaking a major story, and the risks faced by those who dare challenge corporate America. This is mostly thanks to a powerhouse performance from Blanchett, but special mention must also go to Redford who, at 79, still possesses the classic film-star magnetism lacking in modern Hollywood.
Despite favourable reviews, Truth reportedly ‘bombed’ at the US box office – it’s unlikely to recoup much of its budget in the international market, where its narrative holds little weight. Worth seeing for the performances alone, Truth could have benefited from a more nuanced re-telling of the still-controversial events it depicts.
Truth UK Release date 4 March
|What||'Truth' film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
04 Mar 16 – 04 May 16, times vary
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the film's IMDB page|