Starring: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid
Director: James Vanderbilt
Running Time: 126 mins
Truth is an American film about the true story of journalist Mary Mapes, whose groundbreaking work on a story about President George W. Bush’s military history for CBS News’ 60 Minutes was cut short by a huge investigation into how the story was compiled, costing her and her fellow journalists their credibility and careers.
I’m always interested to learn a little bit more about the smaller parts of modern history, and films like Truth offer exactly that opportunity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite go about telling its story in the most fascinating way, and although it does manage to salvage some intrigue in its second and third acts, it feels a whole lot less politically and emotionally charged, making for a frustratingly uninteresting watch.
If there’s one thing about this film that’s a real failure, however, it’s the opening act. The first forty minutes or so are effectively a retelling of a group of journalists compiling evidence surrounding the possibility that President Bush skipped military service during the Vietnam War.
Now, that premise has the potential to work brilliantly, much like the riveting Spotlight, but the problem is that it fails to recognise the wider picture as well, which makes the story at hand feel completely unimportant in a wider historical context, and the film feel completely dry of a deeper and more intelligent core, as if you’re literally watching a current affairs programme rather than a cinematic dramatisation.
In short, the first act of this film is incredibly poor. Failing to give any real sense of importance to the story at hand, and not using the talents of its strong cast, I was seriously bored with Truth the whole way through the opening act.
Fortunately, things do begin to change. Although I can’t say this film is ever the most riveting watch, the second and third acts begin to bring in a sense of the effect of the depicted events over a wider scope than just the US election and CBS’ internal politics.
The shift in tone is also a welcome one. Moving away from the dry atmosphere that feels like an episode of 60 Minutes itself, the film begins to look at the personal and emotional impact of a media witch hunt, as well as the wider-ranging consequences of such relating to political freedom and freedom of speech. That’s what the centre of the story should have been right from the off, and although it’s great to see that the film finally gets round to focusing on that theme, it’s very frustrating that it takes so long.
The performances are somewhat better. Although completely underutilised in the awful first act, the likes of Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford do bring an impressive level of dramatic depth to the film. When the story begins to pay attention to their characters, rather than just retelling the events, the film gets a lot more interesting, and the actors get a chance to shine, continuing to improve right up to a genuinely engaging finale.
Overall, I was very disappointed by Truth. Its opening act is a dry, uninteresting and small-minded forty minutes, and although it definitely picks up its game over the remaining hour and a half, with a somewhat engaging story and some strong performances, this is never the most enthralling drama, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.7.