Mary Mapes is my ideal Vogue covergirl. Portrayed tenaciously in James Vanderbilt’s new movie ‘Truth’, the Emmy award-winning journalist/producer-turned-author is everything every woman could strive to be: smart, confident and honest. (She embodies everything I want to be : successful, resilient in the face of adversity and writing about the stories that matter.)
In 2004, ahead of his re-election campaign, Mapes and her team attempted to expose inconsistencies in W. Bush’s National Guard record, a credential heavily relied upon in his successful 2000 Presidential campaign. After airing the story on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Bush supporters tore into the evidence presented, challenging Mapes’ integrity and that of her long-time TV news reporter, Dan Rather.
Director Vanderbilt’s self-scripted film takes us through the final chapter of Rather’s 24-year anchorage of the CBS Evening News, the end of which was seemingly forced by corporate posturing for the White House. The collaborative efforts of Rather and Mapes – acted effortlessly by Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett – to hold true to the value of great journalism, amidst the bottom-covering corporate bullsh*t, are more than admirable. They evoke a strong sense of injustice and a desire to revolt.
Heartily supported by Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss and Topher Grace – the latter playing the uncensored rebel and bringing a light-hearted comedic element to the weight of the script – the film itself is based on Mapes’ 2005 book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power. The theme of the movie is, as the title suggests, ‘truth’ and the message is to question everything, in order to get to that very truth. The conclusion of the movie falls in favour of our protagonist, who wins you over long before she’s expected to reveal the truth about the documents in contention (*skirts spoiler alert*) and arguably, this bias towards Mapes sits at odds with the message. Nevertheless, as the producer herself says, the documents were only a fraction of the whole – entirely credible – truth.
After her departure from 15-year tenure at CBS News, the channel was awarded the Peabody for the Mapes-produced coverage of the Abu Ghraib prison camp scandal. Clearly you can’t hold a good journalist down and nor should you. Mapes shows us if you go out, do it fighting on your own veracious terms.
Well-paced, insightful and provocative, ‘Truth’ is due for release this Friday (4th March).