Monday, November 2, 2015

Truth

3.5/4

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Stacey Keach

Rated R for Language and a Brief Nude Photo

What makes Cate Blanchett such a force to be reckoned with as an actress is not her talent (which is astonishing), but her gutsiness.  Blanchett always throws herself into her work, be it light fluff like "How to Train Your Dragon 2" or heavy Oscar-bait movies like "Blue Jasmine" (for which she won her second Oscar...the first, and thus far only, Australian actress to do so).  "Truth" is without a doubt one of the latter, and much of its success is because of Blanchett.

Dan Rather (Redford) is the host of "60 Minutes" for CBS.  He's joined at the hip by his producer Mary Mapes (Blanchett), who has come into some information about then-President George W. Bush.  Someone has documents that show that someone pulled strings and got Bush into the Texas Air National Guard, and there was a period when he didn't show up for duty.  But after thoroughly researching the story, checking their sources and airing the piece, some conservative bloggers claim that those documents were forged.  Now Dan, Mary and their whole team have to protect themselves from disaster.

What's refreshing about this film is that it's apolitical.  It's not anti-Bush; he and his camp are almost totally out of the picture and it doesn't form any opinion of them (this is explicitly stated in the film).  By focusing not so much on what Bush did or did not do and more on whether or not the evidence is fake, it eliminates the possibility of political bias.  Rather, the conflict is from CBS, who is throwing everything they have at the team in an attempt to score brownie points with Bush.  Ironically, this isn't the first time this has happened in a movie...anyone remember "The Insider?"

Blanchett is what makes "Truth" so powerful.  Her performance, perhaps the best of her career, is absolutely riveting.  She's not the only one on screen, but this is her show.  She's so good that despite the film not being clear on what Bush did (or did not) do, the film is never anything less than enthralling.  An Oscar nod is a certainty, and if she doesn't win, she should.  I certainly haven't seen any other actresses this year that come close.

"Truth" touches on an interesting point: the dangers of corporate-run news.  James Vanderbilt, making his directorial debut, sees corporate takeovers of news organizations to be dangerous, leading to "infotainment" like celebrity news and stories that aren't told because they could embarrass their parent companies (or the politicians they have ties to).  Vanderbilt addresses the importance of impartiality without highlighting it.

This isn't a flawless film; the information about Bush's alleged activities is presented too rapidly to be easily absorbed and there's a subplot about Mary's father that feels shortchanged.  Yet "Truth" overcomes it all because of Blanchett.  No matter your political affiliation, don't miss this one!

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