This winter, Oscar voters will confront the triumphs and failures of American journalism in the early years of the 21st century. Spotlight, considered by many to be the Best Picture frontrunner, dramatizes the Boston Globe investigation that uncovered the massive Catholic sex-abuse cover-up, one of the biggest and most important scoops of the last 15 years (and one that earned a Pulitzer Prize). If Spotlight is about journalism gone right, Truth is about journalism gone wrong—or at least about journalism that doesn’t go as planned. Truth, based on a memoir by former 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes, tells the story behind the flawed 2004 CBS report that ended Dan Rather’s career.
The first trailer for Truth makes it clear that Rather, played by Robert Redford, is a supporting character—the tragic hero of this drama is Mapes, played by a steely Cate Blanchett. We see Mapes and her team of producers and investigators, played by Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, and Dennis Quaid, pursue evidence that George W. Bush had defied orders and gone over his commander’s head to change his performance reviews while in the National Guard in the 1970s. After 60 Minutes' report aired, the memos that formed the crux of their evidence were denounced as forgeries, and Rather had to retract the report. Blanchett’s Mape appears embattled by criticism in the trailer, defiantly shouting, “They do not get to do this! They do not get to smack us just for asking the question!” in one scene, then morosely mumbling, “I never should have asked the question” in the next.
It will be interesting to see how the film comes down on the veracity of CBS’ reporting—the real-life Mapes, who has a screenwriter credit for Truth, has never disavowed her team’s conclusions, in spite of the evidence of forgery. Truth hits theaters on Oct. 16.