Controversy surrounds CBS News anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) and her team, Mike Smith (Topher Grace), Roger Charles (Dennis Quaid), and Lucy Scott (Elizabeth Moss) after the network broadcasts a report about President George W. Bush and his military service.
Seeing that I’m not an American (a Canadian), I didn’t know much about the story in which the film is based but I was interested in this solely for the acting associated with the film with Redford and Blanchett. For those who are unaware of the story, this film is about Mapes (Blanchett) and her team of journalists Smith, Charles, and Scott (Grace, Quaid, and Moss) uncovering information related to George W. Bush’s military record around the time of the 2004 presidential elections. Dan Rather (Redford) uses this information during a report in a broadcast of CBS’s 60 Minutes and the evening news. Controversy sound surrounded this report as some of the evidence presented came into question. This film consisted mostly of the investigation, then the so called report, and then the fallout associated with its controversy. The actual investigation was somewhat compelling even though it was just a bunch of characters in a room with a whiteboard throwing ideas around (as it usually goes) and also those same characters being continuously hung up on. I would have liked to have seen more or more other stuff but I’m not familiar with the initial investigation or the book in which the film is based. This may not seem like much but what kept me engaged was the chemistry between all of the actors and their performances, especially Blanchett’s. I thought she was amazing as Mapes, she had real command of the screen. Moss, and to a lesser extent Quaid, were good with what they had but I found them to be grossly underused and their characters underwritten. Grace had a little more than Moss and Quaid as his characters was more involved and actually had one scene in particular, where his character expressed a relatable type of frustration. The events leading up to Rather’s report were exciting as you can sense the pressure these characters are experiencing. Redford’s performance as Rather was great and his chemistry and father-daughter relationship with Blanchett’s Mapes was fun to watch. I did not find Redford looked like Rather but you quickly forget about that when you experience Redford’s performance. He played Rather with warmth and embodied Rather himself. The best part of the film has to be the part where the characters deal with the fallout from Rather’s controversial report. The scenes in which Mapes and her team must defend themselves from those who they work for and the public were the most compelling. You could really feel the urgency with which they had to do so and that was exciting. This was primarily because of the bureaucracy involved and it explored its impact on the presidential election that was approaching. The one thing I didn’t like about this part was that we did not get to see a lot of the internal investigation which happened later on. We didn’t get to see what happened to Mapes’s team but only Mapes herself. This was of course a gratuitous use of Cate Blanchett being Cate Blanchett but I didn’t mind because she was great. Overall, this was a good investigative reporting film which taught me a lot about something I didn’t know too well with great performances from Redford and Blanchett but I feel like it could have been a lot better.