At First Glance: “Truth”

Trailer releases can be exciting moments in any day. If you’re lucky, the trailer will live up to what you imagine the film will look and feel like. Any early released pictures will have done the job of selling the film and make getting excited well worth it. If not, well, then it sucks to be you.

The upcoming Sony Pictures Classics film “Truth”, is already looking like an incredibly engaging and gripping behind the scenes look at a story that should’ve been air tight, but wasn’t.

This biographical drama stars Cate Blanchett (upcoming “Carol”, “Cinderella (2015)”), Robert Redford (“A Walk in the Woods”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), Topher Grace (“American Ultra”, “Interstellar”), Elizabeth Moss (“Queen of Earth”, “Mad Men”), Bruce Greenwood (“Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp”, “Mad Men), Stacy Keach (“NCIS: New Orleans”, “Hot in Cleveland”), and Dennis Quaid (“Inside Amy Schumer”, “Movie 43”).

This film is written and directed by James Vanderbilt (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, “White House Down”). It is based on the book “Truth and Duty: The Press, The President and the Privilege of Power” by Mary Mapes.

The film is expected to open on Oct. 16, 2015. It debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in the Special Presentations section and will also screen at the upcoming Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) and most likely other festivals throughout the rest of 2015.

When I stumbled upon this film some time ago, there was not a single thing known about this film, other than plot and the two principal stars. At some point, as I kept checking back sporadically, there was a photo (see below). That photo got me really excited. Blanchett and Redford looked quite captivating in that single photo, even though there was no context to it. Some months later, low and behold, as is usually the case, a trailer (which at this moment I haven’t been able to find on YouTube to include) just happened to emerge. And boy was I blown away! It was even more exciting than I could’ve imagined. I was also sold on this film and what it’s about as I was too young to focus on what was going on at that time. All I knew, like so many others, was that Dan Rather was retiring. At least this film might put some things into perspective, and at the very least spark a conversation on how difficult it is for journalists when trying to break a certain kind of story.
As with all films, the cast is everything. I’ve been impressed for some time with Blanchett and am still discovering the various film’s that Redford has done. Then there’s the supporting cast. Grace, Moss and Quaid are all actors I’ve seen in many different things or want to. I know they can deliver, so that’s a plus.

With regards to the actual characters, Blanchett definitely has a complex and, I’m going to say it, meaty role. There’s so much going on with her character, that while this is about Redford’s Rather by and large, it’s also largely about Blanchett’s Mapes. Rather and Mapes both were fired after the disaster that was his reporting and relying on documents that proved to be fraudulent. The trailer really delved deep into what happened to her, more than Rather, and that made me even more interested. After he “retired”, it was quickly assumed that he was forced out or fired. Bad either way. But what about the other people involved? I feel that this film is going to answer that among so many other things, and Blanchett is definitely proving the right choice for this. Even the American accent she’s using this time is superb. I’ve thought back on some of the other American accents she’s done, and this one stands out as the best. I can’t wait to see more of her character, as well as the other actors.

This film is also about an unfortunate moment in the history of journalism, as I’ve sort of mentioned and you can discover in the trailer. For me, I know vaguely about what happened, and have since been reminded of it in the few pieces I read while stumbling upon the trailer today. It’s because of this lack of knowledge, and my love of journalism, even if at times I hate the types of stories coming out of various media outlets, that has me all the more interested in this film as a film, and as a reenactment of history. That’s basically, like a lot of films “based on actual events” or “true stories”, or whatever, what those films do, and largely for the better.

Take for instance, and now I’m just sort of name dropping, sorry, “Shattered Glass”, which was about a “journalist” working for a well respected news organization, who, as it turns out, was making up a lot of his stories published. It was a major scandal, like that of another would be journalist, Jayson Blair. “Shattered Glass” from what I recall is an excellent film and chronicles a dark moment in the history of journalism, but allows us to hopefully learn from it and better understand the nature and world of journalists that actually care about honest and truthful reporting.

Then, there’s the film “Nothing But the Truth”, which is about the leaking of the name of former covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. While this film changed many of the names and dramatized certain events, the point is clear. A journalist, no matter how wrong she may or may not be, can not give up a sources name. All integrity is lost in that. While the real life events are far different than in “Nothing But the Truth”, it’s still just as important. The companion film, or so I feel, “Fair Game” is more the other side of the same coin. This one, unlike “Nothing But the Truth”, is an adaptation of two memoirs recounting the real story of how Plame Wilson was outed as a CIA operative by her own government. This one doesn’t so much deal with journalism directly, but at the heart is about what’s at stake when journalists write stories they shouldn’t, even if they think it’s the right thing to do. On that particular note, I have no clue if real life disgraced journalist, Judith Miller, was doing it because she thought it was the right thing or just out of spite of Plame Wilson and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson.

Lastly, of recent memory, not to discount other notable films about journalism, there’s “Kill the Messenger”. This film’s about Gary Webb, who stumbled upon shady dealings involving the U.S. government and the anti-government Contra Rebels in Nicaragua. He goes out of his way to find the truth and expose it and ultimately makes enemies with various big named people in politics. A lot of what he writes about is called into question as his evidence is never that solid and so, ultimately, his credibility is ruined. His career is ruined. And years after the events, he commits suicide. When the film was released in 2014, it brought this entire bit of history back into the spotlight, if only for a little bit, but it got me intrigued. I started to research and read articles by people that knew Webb or just had opinions on his brand of journalism. Again, this film allows for the chance of discussion, and I feel that if I could be intrigued by events almost 20 years old, than so too can others.

If you stuck with me through that, I thank you. The main point about mentioning these films, perhaps a bit more than need be, is that this film, about a formerly well respected journalist and his producer is that a discussion can be had about journalism as a whole and this particular instance. Some believe he and everyone else was flat out wrong and just out to get then President George W. Bush, while some think it was just bad information given to them that wasn’t thoroughly vetted. Even the film talks about how the story they were seeking was being ignored and right to be looked into, but that the information didn’t pan out like it should’ve. Hearing Blanchett essentially say this at the end of the trailer was a really good hook. It sold me more on her character and what this film is aiming to achieve.

Whether this film is truly going to be a success, whatever that means, I’m filled with confidence. The actors all have contributed to many great and successful film and television projects and the story itself is far more fascinating than that of half the other stuff put out year in and year out. Other than solid performances from the actors, the only thing I’m hoping I get out of this is an entertaining film about a notable moment in history. If this film can achieve that, then for me, it’s a success no matter what else.

Finally, the trailer, now properly included:

And the pretty awesome first poster! I’m seriously excited about this!


As a bonus! the first clip from “Truth”, it’s better than nothing:


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