In case you didn’t already know, Cate Blanchett is one of the finest actors working in the business today. As if her lauded performance in Cannes darling Carol wasn’t enough, the Australian thespian has brought another outstanding performance to TIFF in the true story journalism drama Truth. Blanchett is in crackling form in this impressive debut film from James Vanderbilt, proving that there’s hardly any role she can’t do to perfection.
Blanchett stars as Mary Mapes, a CBS News producer at the top of her game during the early 2000s. In collaboration with the venerable news anchor Dan Rather, face of “60 Minutes”, she had made news reporting into one of the most valued programming divisions at CBS. And through her tireless research and investigations, she was on the verge of breaking one of the hottest stories of her career. With the help of a special team, she found evidence to prove that President George W. Bush had gone AWOL for many months during his service at the Texas Air National Guard, a post which itself was a ploy to allow him to avoid duty in the Vietnam War. But when the investigative report finally airs, Mapes was unable to celebrate her achievement, as a targeted backlash followed to discredit “60 Minutes”, Mapes and Rather, accusing them of forgery. With a rising onslaught of accusations being thrown at them, Mapes and Rather are forced to fight for their jobs, reputations and the ethos of independence in journalism.
Truth begins very much how you’d expect. Assembling the team, making phone calls, collecting testimonies, wading through old documents. It’s the typical procedural beats required to put all the pieces in place. And because Vanderbilt’s direction isn’t flashy, it feels rather generic.
But once the report is complete and the backlash starts, this superb screenplay starts a rigorous investigation of its own, probing deep into the characters and the media circus surrounding them. Vanderbilt shows the power of good writing, captivating audiences through strong storytelling and sharp dialogue. This script is certainly one to watch in the Oscar race for Best Adapted Screenplay.
And in Cate Blanchett, Vanderbilt has found the perfect vessel to deliver his lines. You wouldn’t immediately think of Blanchett when you look at the curly-haired Mapes, but she makes it work with her tenacity and shrewd actorly instincts. She finds the humor and levity in the headstrong Mapes where other actresses would find none, creating a fully realized character. Her work here will surely put her in contention for a Best Actress nod this season.
Robert Redford is also in fine form as Dan Rather. Though he also bears little resemblance to this well-known figure, he sells the natural gravitas and intelligence that made audiences tune in to “60 Minutes” every week. It’s not a showy performance but it’s invaluable to the film’s success. I expect him to be a contender for Best Supporting Actor as well. The film could also make a run for a Best Picture nod if that other aptly titled journalism drama doesn’t hog all the spotlight. Regardless of the awards outcome, Vanderbilt should be very proud of this thoroughly riveting film.