director: James Vanderbilt
writer: James Vanderbilt
starring: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace
genre: Biopic | Drama
released: 30 October 2015 (USA)
'60 Minutes' once was a respectable investigative TV show that dealt with real issues and exposed scandals of the ruthless and sometimes untouchable. It hasn't been that show for quite a while now and this change wasn't only due to the ever changing and profit oriented TV establishment, but also because journalists broke the cardinal rule of journalism which is to lose the trust of the public.
After the success of the Abu Ghraib story, the '60 Minutes' team thought they were onto their next big scoop which was the then President George W. Bush's possible AWOL from the Texas National Guard during his years in service. The head of the '60 Minutes' team Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) and her team believed the story was with no holes to it. Unfortunately for her and her team it didn't turn out that way.
It doesn't surprise me that this film didn't find an audience where a similar film 'The Insider' was able to find not 17 years ago with massive critical acclaim and Academy Award nominations. It probably was because that film was about the facts, the reality of the situation with journalism at CBS and the dramatically inspired events that transpired. While this film was trying to be about how it wasn't political, but one way or another it kind of was.
Now, it isn't the film's/production's entire fault as it is just trying to tell the story faithfully from the point of you of the protagonist Mary Mapes. As the film is based on her book and her account of the events that occurred during that time. And while still having a good representation of the other side I must admit. The problem in general with this film is that it tries to take a side, while at the same time present the events from a supposed "unbiased" position. But it doesn't work per say as it tries to show clearly that what Mary Mapes did wasn't political at all, however for all we know it may have been and doesn't absolve her either from doing a horrific job during the covering of the George Bush National Guard story. From airing the story with paperwork that wasn't verified by experts, having sources that recounted their takes of the events thereafter and also journalistic practices that to put it lightly weren't very honorable.
Nevertheless, Mary Mapes is still the incredible journalist that revealed the Abu Ghraib story that showed her great value as an investigative journalist and producer of '60 Minutes'. What most likely happened and everything went completely wrong with the Bush National Guard story for her '60 Minutes' team. Must have been the fact that she and the team had a slight bias sliding them towards the left of the political arena and couldn't give up the chance to go after President Bush as Mary Mapes had tried previously in the past (as stated in the film). So when she got a hot story that would show him in a negative light she jumped on it. Also due to the Abu Ghraib success she and the CBS Network thought that they were untouchable and could broadcast the show without fully going into the intricate details of the story. This was undoubtedly their downfall. Additionally though, what would have been wiser for herself and any investigative body so not to call too much attention on themselves. Would have been after the Abu Ghraib story was to go after the other side (the left) and show that bad politics, ethics and practices exist on both sides and not necessarily just on one. Moreover, the kind of story they went after was also during an election season, which screams nothing but political.
Naturally, all this doesn't have much to do with the film itself in regards to the acting, cinematography or plot, but with the politics behind it. However, with a film such as this. It is difficult to see it as anything other than that. Which is why I commend the film for not going too much into the politics of their characters and sticking to the events as much as they could and how they just miserably messed up things and just went along with it.
Both sides of the political aisle will see this film and have different mindsets about what transpired such as myself. Some will see it as vindication of Mary Mapes story and that their was some sort of cover up and the other side will just keep to the story that she was unethical in her practices. This is why no one possibly went to see this film, as its going to divide more people on it. While also being pretty much out of place now that President Bush is out of office for nearly 8 years.
Every stone should be unturned when it comes to an investigation or story, but never should it move forward when their isn't enough tangible evidence and isn't backed up by expert testimonies or trustworthy sources. Because yes, your gut might be telling you its true, but that is never enough. Journalism has indeed changed as Dan Rather played by Robert Redford mentions in the film, but its not like journalists, reporters and the system itself doesn't have a share of the blame in it as well.