Truth reviews

Big Magilla
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Re: Truth reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Sep 13, 2015 8:10 pm

The other thing NBR could do a la Thelma & Louise and The English Patient is to split an award between Blanchett and Mara for Carol.
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Mister Tee
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Re: Truth reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 13, 2015 6:36 pm

A couple of things:

After Shattered Glass totally cratered at the box office, I became persuaded real-life movies set in journalism world simply weren't box office friendly anymore. Good Night and Good Luck's $25 million or so is about as high as such a film goes anymore. So, I wouldn't be surprised if you're right about the film not making much noise.

However...I can't agree that A Walk in the Wood is that big a dud. Given that the film was released with barely a whimper of publicity, it looks like it's going to do a quite respectable $30-40 million, which, for a grown-up movie without exceptional notices or an Oscar campaign, isn't bad at all.

Finally: with Truth, Carol and even Cinderella, this has been quite a year for Cate Blanchett, hasn't it? If NBR still gave out its acting awards to multi-credit performers, you'd have to think Blanchett would have a huge leg up.

Big Magilla
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Re: Truth reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Sep 13, 2015 4:47 pm

Good reviews aside, I have a feeling this one will strike moviegoers as yesterday's news and be as ignored as Redford's A Walk in the Woods at the box office.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

Mister Tee
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Truth reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 13, 2015 12:54 pm

Surprisingly strong reception.

Variety
Justin Chang
Chief Film Critic @JustinCChang

The keenly focused intelligence and low-boil intensity that James Vanderbilt demonstrated in his screenplay for “Zodiac” are on impressive display in “Truth,” a portentously titled but duly absorbing, blow-by-blow account of the “Memogate” controversy that shamed CBS News, ended Dan Rather’s career as the network’s anchorman, and became a chastening historical footnote to the re-election of President George W. Bush. As Vanderbilt’s crisp, polished directorial debut takes pains to remind us, it also led to the downfall of “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes, cast here as the fierce, embattled heroine of a stomach-knotting newsroom thriller that plays like both a companion piece and a counterpoint to the more edifying “Spotlight”: It’s the feel-bad journalism movie of the year, a despairing last gasp for an era when substance mattered more than scandal. Complex, incisive and high-minded, sometimes to a fault, the Oct. 16 Sony Classics release should spin its juicy subject matter and lead turns by Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford into a solid commercial showing during another noisy election season; still, there remains a somewhat too-tidy fastidiousness to the picture that will keep it securely in the “pretty good” tier of 2015 prestige releases.

Introduced hiring a lawyer who will represent her during an internal investigation that CBS is conducting, Mapes initially comes across as a figure only moderately less wired and desperate than the Xanax-popping socialite Blanchett played in “Blue Jasmine.” It’s a slightly unflattering introduction in a picture that is otherwise fairly transparent about mounting a cinematic vindication of sorts for Mapes, whose 2005 book, “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power,” provided the foundation for Vanderbilt’s screenplay. In short order, the film flashes back to April 2004, with the producer in her “60 Minutes” prime — a widely respected and accomplished figure in her field whose long-running collaboration with Rather (Redford) has just enjoyed a career peak with their groundbreaking report on Abu Ghraib. As Mapes herself notes with more objectivity than ego, their work is “the gold standard,” a bastion of investigative rigor in an industry that devotes less and less time and resources to serious news gathering.

Which is not to say that Mapes doesn’t enjoy sinking her teeth into the latest “juicy piece of brisket” that’s landed in her inbox, a tip concerning alleged links between Bush and the bin Laden family. The lead goes nowhere, but at a key moment in the presidential campaign, with the swiftboating of John Kerry under way, it does trigger a productive inquiry into Bush’s own military record — specifically, the suspicion that he used his family connections to dodge Vietnam and land a coveted spot in the Texas Air National Guard in 1968, a favor courtesy of the state’s then-lieutenant governor, Ben Barnes (Philip Quast). But the evasions may have gone even deeper, on the evidence of six documents that have recently come to light, and which appear to have been written in 1972-73 by Bush’s commander, the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian; collectively, they make the damning claim that Bush’s service was spotty to nonexistent, as he never showed up for his physical or fulfilled any of his obligations as an officer.

Determined to break the story early, not only to beat the competition but also to avoid any sense of an “October surprise,” Mapes assembles a sterling team of investigators and researchers, who are swiftly introduced with heist-crew flair: freelancer Mike Smith (Topher Grace), who’s been following the Bush/National Guard story for some time; Lt. Col. Roger Charles (Dennis Quaid), a Vietnam vet serving as a consultant; and journalism professor Lucy Scott (Elisabeth Moss). Vanderbilt’s multilayered script settles easily into the even-keeled procedural style of “Zodiac” as the team sets out to authenticate the documents, calling in different experts to study Killian’s signature and (crucially) the text of the memos, which would have to have been produced on a ’70s-era mechanical typewriter.

Even as it clues us in to potential oversights and missteps, “Truth” paints its fact finders in the most scrupulous light possible: They’re well aware that the outcome of their reporting could influence the election (with Kerry leading the polls by a slim margin), and therefore that much more intent on ensuring that their story is airtight. And it seems to be, especially after Mapes scores an over-the-phone confirmation of the documents’ veracity from Killian’s superior, in a scene that Vanderbilt shoots in a riveting single take, the camera locking Mapes in its sights while she pins down her source. Rather delivers the story with his usual stentorian authority, and Mapes and her team enjoy a fleeting sense of accomplishment — before the story is picked up and immediately challenged by conservative bloggers and, more importantly, other major news outlets, who quickly latch on to the suspicion that something major has slipped through the cracks.

If the film’s emotional temperature inevitably rises several degrees in the second act, editor Richard Francis-Bruce maintains an unwavering, locked-down focus, even as Mapes and her team are slowly raked over the coals. First come alarming charges that the memos could easily have been fabricated on a computer; then the inevitable loss of confidence from their CBS News higher-ups Andrew Heyward (Bruce Greenwood) and Betsy West (Rachael Blake); and finally, a startling admission that, had it come to light earlier, would surely have kept the story off the air. But what this thoughtful, slippery film leaves us to consider is that the unraveling of one chain of evidence hardly amounts to a refutation of the larger story, which was promptly buried in an avalanche of public disgrace — some of it piled on by a network that realized it might be in its best corporate interests (and those of its parent company, Viacom) to play nice with the incumbent and future administration.

Given that it’s become a popular awards-season bloodsport to challenge prestige docudramas and biopics on factual grounds, a movie called “Truth,” implicitly defending a group of journalists who were accused of falling short of that standard, would seem to be marching into the fray with a giant “Debunk Me” sign on its back. It’s a credit to Vanderbilt that despite his measured and exacting tone, he never lapses into a posture of objectivity: His movie surveys Bush’s legacy with withering restraint, openly mourns missed opportunities to derail his presidency, and is at times overly fond of stuffing its own opinions into its characters’ mouths — as when Grace’s Smith lets loose a stream of invective against “60 Minutes II” exec producer Josh Howard (David Lyons) for so readily hanging his employees out to dry.

And in the end, to a degree that will strike detractors as excessively soft and sympathetic, “Truth” is clearly and unapologetically on Mary Mapes’ side. Really, given the movie’s choice of leading lady, it could scarcely be otherwise. Suffering only from a measure of familiarity when set beside the actress’s other work, Blanchett’s performance is forceful yet delicately shaded, and she renders Mapes with admirable complexity: We see a hard-working wife and mother who struggles to find time with her supportive husband (John Benjamin Hickey) and young son, but also a tough-as-nails producer whose excitement outstripped her attention to detail at one crucial moment. She is, too, a successful career woman frequently accused of harboring a radical feminist agenda and/or allowing her liberal politics (which is to say, her emotions) to interfere with her professional distance — a charge that Vanderbilt allows Mapes to answer with blistering eloquence in one of his most pointedly written and directed scenes.

The film also gives us a few dribbles of emotional backstory regarding Mapes’ difficult relationship with her cruelly abusive father, which played a formative role in her professional development (“I don’t like bullies”) and also led her to form a sort of surrogate daughter-father bond with Rather. Redford, who bears a solid resemblance to Rather but not quite enough to make you forget whom you’re watching, plays the veteran newsman with easy gravitas, inner strength and a gentle paternal twinkle, with little display of the anger and volatility for which he was often known over the course of his storied career. More than a decade after leaving CBS News, Rather gets a touching, valedictory sendoff here, in a sequence that reveals the film’s intentions a bit too baldly while overdosing on Brian Tyler’s otherwise pulsingly effective score.

Vanderbilt’s filmmaking is as clean and unshowy as his scripting, and he demonstrates superb instincts with actors; notwithstanding the sometimes-distracting starriness of his two leads, “Truth” is more than a match for “Spotlight” in showcasing an ensemble that feels impeccably cast down to the smallest role. Grace and Quaid relax nicely into a more collegial rapport than they shared in “In Good Company” (2004); Moss makes the most of her too-few scenes as an intrepid reporter thrilled to be on the case, and Greenwood, Lyons and Blake all strike sharp, memorable notes as CBS heavyweights forced into damage-control mode. Stacy Keach is at once pitiable and exasperating as Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, the National Guard veteran who furnishes the faulty smoking gun, and as his wife, Noni Hazlehurst has one blazing, Beatrice-Straight-in-“Network”-caliber scene in which she takes Mapes and her team to task for trying to shift the blame. “You don’t care,” she lashes out, even if this skilled and compelling dramatization makes clear that the truth of the matter is, as always, more complicated than it appears.


Hollywood Reporter
by Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line
Journos couldn't beat a Republican president's men this time.

It may be yesterday’s news, but there’s still plenty of juice left in Truth, a crackerjack journalism yarn in which big name actors play big name real-life characters who became embroiled in a controversy that still raises partisan hackles.

While this account of CBS News’ 2004 reporting of President George W. Bush’s questionable career in the Air National Guard clearly takes the view of the reporter protagonists, the story is nonetheless so thick with political motives on both sides — as well as evidence that remains murky to this day — that the film should first and foremost be appreciated as a first-rate account of the pressurized world of high-end TV news reporting. Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford lead a first-rate cast in an engrossing drama for which great media interest should translate into solid specialized-release box office for Sony Pictures Classics.

"Of course" a film based on former CBS News producer Mary Mapes' own book will tend to back her view of events, and "of course" a film co-starring Robert Redford as longtime CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather will have what is always called liberal bias. But what seems to most consume writer and first-time director James Vanderbilt, author of the extraordinarily probing screenplay for David Fincher’s Zodiac, is going deep into the nitty-gritty of sourcing, reporting and connecting the dots in a mysterious story, something that Mapes did not do flawlessly enough to avoid being fired by the network and drag the venerable Rather and a few others down with her. As far as this film goes, the title would seem to refer to the search for truth rather than the absolute determination of it.

As an account of a relatively recent journalistic enterprise, Truth is superior in every way to the more mundane Spotlight, a look at The Boston Globe’s exposé of the Catholic Church’s longtime policy of covering up the clergy’s sexual abuse of youngsters that has nonetheless been quite well received at festivals.

For starters, Truth is blessed with another galvanizing performance by Blanchett, who comes on strong but in a very human way as a high-powered newswoman seemingly at the top of her game. The main breadwinner in her family (she has a husband and son at home), Mary Mapes has clearly had to work very hard to get where she is but also has a lot to show for it; she’s at the very top of her profession.

In the summer during the ramp-up to the 2004 presidential contest, discontent over the Iraq War is making Bush’s prospects for re-election look quite questionable. His non-service in Vietnam and what was sometimes alleged as special treatment in the National Guard prior to heading off to Harvard Business School were always touchy subjects, but now word comes Mapes’ way that Bush may even have shirked duty and possibly not fulfilled the terms of his service in the Guard.

This hot stuff provokes Mapes to put together a small team, including a former Marine (Dennis Quaid), a professor (Elisabeth Moss) and a researcher (Topher Grace). Almost everyone with Bush family connections in Texas refuses to talk, of course, but one key figure, the elderly and sick Retired Lt. Col. Bill Burkett (Stacy Keach), reluctantly provides Mapes with some incriminating information and a couple of documents to back it up. It’s enough to get CBS on board with her and Rather determined to report it.

Still, it’s an election year, and any evidence liberal CBS offers up against Bush is guaranteed to meet with withering opposition from all the president’s men, beginning with the Texas crowd. The general word is that any genuinely compromising documents about Bush’s National Guard days have long since been suppressed or pulled out of the records, but the network feels confident enough in the Mapes team’s reporting and the authenticity of the documents that it goes with the story. After Rather delivers it on the air, the whole team basks in the afterglow of a job brilliantly done.

But the administration’s response catches everyone off guard. The key documents, the Bush team says, were printed in a typographical format only available on Microsoft Word; as all documents in the late 1960s were written with manual typewriters, therefore the documents are fake. Burkett then tries to recant, and the wind that for a time was filling the news crew’s sails is now whipping them in the face.

Both sides lawyer up and, when it’s clear where the momentum now lies, CBS begins distancing itself from its longtime star producer and, ultimately, its veteran news anchor. Vanderbilt includes just enough about Mapes’ personal life for the viewer to have a sense of how her attentive husband and lively son accept taking second place to her professional life, and he’s smart not to take gratuitous swipes at the Bush team; there’s an understanding that this is the way the big boys play, no matter which team you’re on, and if you’re in power, you’re going to enjoy exercising it and want to keep on doing so.

Still, there's got to be a fall guy, or in this case the gal at the center of it, one who near the end must face a virtual murderer’s row of hostile lawyers and administration gunslingers; under the circumstances, Mapes acquits herself honorably, even if she can’t prevent herself from getting her two cents in at the end when she can assume she’s getting the heave-ho anyway.

Blanchett gives this dynamo of intelligence and doggedness a real human dimension that allows the propulsive drama to breathe; it’s another stellar performance that rates among her best. His hair reddish-brown rather than salt-and-pepper, Redford doesn’t closely conform to Rather’s looks, but he nonetheless comes to inhabit the role very credibly, his very familiarity merging with that of the real man he’s playing. Presumably accurately, or the filmmakers wouldn’t have included the detail, Redford’s Rather is very often seen with a cocktail in hand and more than once admitting that he’s already had three; several of the other characters, including Mapes, clearly enjoy their booze as well, a testament to the habits of many generations of journalists past.

Supporting roles are all well filled, notably by Keach as the ambivalent and ailing key source and Bruce Greenwood as the increasingly perturbed head of CBS, Andrew Heyward.

You’d never guess that the film was shot almost entirely in Australia. First-rate production values are led by Mandy Walker’s smooth cinematography and production designer Fiona Crombie’s vast number of attractive interior settings.

Screen Daily
By Fionnuala Halligan, Chief Film Critic

A glut of films which pay tribute to the work of crusading reporters arrives into the marketplace this awards season, even as that marketplace is increasingly abandoning traditional investigative journalism. Black Mass and Spotlight came to the screen via the Boston Globe in one form or another; now Truth is based on the story behind a CBS 60 Minutes report into President Bush’s draft-dodging record which led to the end of Dan Rather’s CBS career; he’s played here by Robert Redford, who starred in the grand-daddy of investigative journalism films, All The Presidents Men.

Truth will face challenges – this chewy screenplay is of far greater interest to American viewers than international audiences not quite so familiar with the story, the network, the programme, or the characters involved, although Dan Rather has global name recognition. And you can’t help but feel that Aaron Sorkin could have cut through all the initial slabs of exposition in a deft episode of Newsroom, even as James Vanderbilt’s debut stretches out to just over two hours. But despite its awkward start, the film grows significantly in stature, thanks mainly to its two headlining stars who hit all the right notes. Redford reaches the perfect register for Rather, and Cate Blanchett rises to the challenge of portraying his nervy producer and confidante Mary Mapes; “old media” stars who were devoured by a “new media” storm.

The combined appeal of Redford and Blanchett and Truth’s worthy material should secure upmarket distribution worldwide and themed festival play where it will appeal to all those nostalgic for the good old days of crusading journalism (although they prefer to tweet about it these days). Truth is unlikely to have much resonance with the American right wing, though it wil provoke debate as intended and re-ignite the story as the US presidential election heats up. Good Night And Good Luck is a clear recent benchmark, and US distributor SPC (the project was sold internationally by FilmNation), may similarly gamble on an awards play for its cast.

Truth is the directorial debut of writer James Vanderbilt (who penned David Fincher’s Zodiac about the San Francisco Chronicle’s investigation into a serial killer), and he is clearly fascinated by the mechanics of the delivery of news. It is based on Mapes’ own memoir and sticks to her and Rather’s party line on the 2004 report which ultimately led to her dismissal from the network and Rather’s untimely exit after 24 years as a national icon fronting the nightly news (Rather appeared at the film’s Toronto world premiere, where he was visibly moved by the events portrayed onscreen).

Truth has a finicky story to relate, involving a legion of peripheral characters and he-said, she-said testimony over whether or not George Bush may have shirked his duties. The central question is whether Maples and, by extension, Rather, were careless about authenticating a document concerning Bush’s time in the Texas Air National Guard where he served as a pilot during the Vietnam War. (So much exposition is required about the characters and the story they’re investigating, Vanderbilt even resorts at one early stage to having Maples’ seven-year-old son interview her on camera about her job).

Once the story has been aired, though, the film starts to sing. The relationship between the award-winning producer and her anchor is a touching one, and it holds strong, while the interplay between the team of investigators whom Maples brings on for the task (played by Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Elizabeth Moss) becomes increasingly panicked. Blanchett also invests Mapes with a rivetting range of conflicting emotions, although they’re distractingly played out under a cover of super-bouncy hairdo (four stylists are credited as working on the actress’s hair and make-up). Shrewd, confident and successful at the picture’s outset, Mapes starts to crumble and doubt herself in yet another gold-standard performance by the Australian actress.

Mapes had admittedly put the report on air with very little time to pull together the sources which claimed Bush had gone AWOL during this time. When cracks appeared, the blogosphere went for her and Rather, and CBS/Viacom (one entity at the time) turned its back. It’s intereting to observe the actress’s disintegration here and contrast it with the controlled aspect of her other big role this year, in Todd Haynes’ uber-formal Carol. Redford, meanwhile, is stately as Rather - but he’s got the full measure of the man, with no broad-strokes portrayal. He humanises some of the anchor’s sweeping sentiments and conveys dignity in defeat.

Truth is solidly made; an interior chamber piece set in corporate boardrooms and CBS newsrooms, a world which is competently delivered by Vanderbilt’s production team. Brian Tyler’s score is didactic, heavily underscoring at the onset and then fading for a while only to shrill back in with a vengeance in the film’s climactic scenes.


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