DRAMA; 2hr 5min
STARRING: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Elizabeth Moss
Making news: Blanchett and Redford
It's any journalist's cold sweat–inducing nightmare. In the lead-up to US President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election, CBS 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes (a sympathetically nuanced Blanchett) and esteemed anchor Dan Rather (Redford) aired a report essentially claiming that in 1972-73, Bush was let off lightly, induction- and performance-wise, by the Texas Air National Guard. Directly following the broadcast, the authenticity of documents used to substantiate it was called into question by multiple sources. In the end, Rather, Mapes and their researchers (Quaid, Grace and Moss) took the fall.
Writer-director James Vanderbilt's debut incisively establishes Mapes as (a) something of a strung-out wreck, then (b), flashing back, as the kind of rapier-sharp operator seemingly pressure-cooked in elite newsrooms. With just five days to prep the Bush story, Mapes and her hungry team work tongue-in-groove to responsibly bring it home. When they do, they're jubilant. But it's their bone-chilling comedown, adapted from Mapes's 2005 memoir, that forms the ugly hub of Vanderbilt's plainly outraged account, in which a genuine quest for accuracy is coldly subsumed by the character-assassinating mechanics of an ass-covering corporate culture.