Sony Pictures Classics, RatPac Entertainment, Echo Lake Entertainment,
Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach
Cate Blanchett stars as Mary Mapes, head of the CBS News Department and Robert Redford (Robert Redford?????) as Dan Rather, seasoned reporter for CBS in this docudrama version of the story of how the pair decided to air on 60 Minutes, just before the 2004 Presidential election, a story about how George Bush avoided serving in Viet Nam using his father’s political clout, and even worse, how he went AWOL and never showed at the camp where he supposedly was trained as a National Guard pilot. Though they were convinced their source was valid, it was not very well corroborated and came under fire right away as a hoax, ending up with both Mary and Dan losing their jobs over the rush to get it on the air before the election without proof.
I was very anxious for this film to come out, as I followed the story very closely when it happened and wasn’t really sure what the whole story was. I happily tore into the envelope when this one arrived in my mailbox, and I was sorely disappointed. This is a one sided propaganda piece that set out to bring people to tears at what happened to the poor victims of this vicious attack when they were pure and innocent as drifted snow. I guess had I known that Sir Robert of Redford was going to play Dan Rather, I would probably have been forewarned and skipped it. Certainly he was much more like the Sundance Kid than Dan Rather, though I give him some credit for at least trying to mimic the way Rather talks. I can understand a little how Rather was a victim of sorts in this, and it was a shame that he threw away his career in order to try to overcome the “Swift Boat Scandal” and help get George W Bush defeated. For those who don’t remember, the members of the crew went public with a story condemning what John Kerry has claimed as his war hero record claiming he wasn’t there and it was all a fantasy. Kerry was in trouble in the election and the media was desperate to find any sort of slime to sling at Bush to slow him down. Of course this backfired in a big way, and George W. breezed into a second term. But that’s not the point. There are two big problems I have with CBS, Dan, and Mary. First, it’s a shame that newscasting has resorted to news readers. News programs that used to be part of the public service to the networks, and a big loss to their revenue stream suddenly because very profitable, and the Sixty Minutes was one of the things that first proved that Entertainment News could make huge profits. But the loss is like reality TV, that “reality” is too boring by itself, so you need to spice it up a bit by choosing a story, and then setting out to prove it at all costs. Dan Rather was around when reporters went out in the field and found out first hand what the story is. Today it’s mostly check TMZ.com and report on whatever they say. Many news stories today come straight from TMZ. And when the networks are wrong, TMZ is actually usually right. But instant news on the internet and in your hand on your smart phone has forced them to try to bring something “BIG” to you first for ratings, hence profits. There is a duty to report on a story fairly and factually, but unfortunately entertainment news has made that disappear. The second big problem is the infamous agenda that the networks have today. Whether it’s conservative or liberal, FOX or MSNBC, they set out with a premise and make it happen. Nothing Obama says will be accepted as right by Fox, and even as early as 2003, CBS and especially Mary Mapes wanted ANYTHING they could get against Bush and would have run just about anything if they had anyway at all to justify it. That’s just not right, but that seems to be what we want. So I don’t think this movie is very accurate, and like the news they presented, they started out with one side of the story and then set out to prove it. But even that’s not so bad as the horrible ending on this thing where they build up to this sad tearjerking climax, and the end it with a 10 minute “funeral” for these two. I felt like I was watching the ending of Old Yeller or Marley and Me when the dog dies (oops spoiler). This was not a terrible tragedy. This was the consequence of poor choices and bad judgement and though perhaps sad, certainly not worthy of the somber treatment they gave this at the end. I would have kept a little bit of respect if it wasn’t for that ridiculous ending that really ruins it. I blame that on the agenda of the filmmakers probably more than the editor, but if the film editor screwed up, perhaps he ought to go out to pasture with Mary and Dan. I was very angry at the end of this one.
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