A Dark Truth Review
Writer/director Damian Lee’s unremarkable political eco-thriller begins with an energetic opening sequence as residents of a village in Tayca, Ecuador run frantically away from a convoy of armed militants. Seemingly firing without reason, it soon transpires that this is a massacre of those affected by a recent breakout of typhoid, which has infiltrated the country’s water supply. Amongst those trying to escape are rebel leader Francisco Francis (Forest Whitaker) and his wife Mia (Eva Longoria), who have valuable information pertaining to the breakout and corporate malevolence on the part of water conglomerate Clearbeck and its CEO, Bruce Swinton (Kim Coates). It’s a bold and brassy move from Lee, yet a smart idea is ruined in this episodic and unexciting picture.
Former CIA operative turned political talk radio host Jack Begosian (Andy Garcia) preaches to his listeners the intricacies of moral ambiguities with the truth back in Toronto, Canada. His mellifluous approach to problem-solving litters the opening moments of the film, as his decision to quit the force and focus on ‘finding the truth’ transpires with a philosophical undercurrent. Every so often he’ll look to the ground and vent his disgust with industries that put money before ethics. It’s clear that he’s a man haunted by his past and hopes to change it. Enter fellow Clearbeck shareholder and sister to Bruce, Morgan Swinton (Deborah Kara Unger), who is frozen with guilt after seeing a former Tayca resident shoot himself in front of her in act of vengeance for the atrocities inflicted in his town. Confused and hoping for answers, she gives Begosian a proposition: travel to Ecuador in order to retrieve Francis and she’ll give him a healthy paycheque and a promise to leak the truth about her brother’s corporate cover-up.
After setting up the story as a supposed exposé on the South American water-wars and land rights in Third World countries, A Dark Truth shifts into some rather clumsy and dull action-sequences in the jungle, which only serve to nullify its honest intentions. It’s a drama which boasts profundity, but then ignores such aims and explodes into arbitrary violence. Even when the cast return to Toronto there is a hastily arranged shoot-out on the street, which only adds to the unremarkable nature of both the action sequences and the writing. When Begosian finally finds Francis and wife, the cheesy dialogue and clichéd plot developments make the film look like nothing more than a rejected pilot for a cable mini-series. There’s also quite a lot of time spent with bad-boy Bruce, who seems to orchestrate everything from the end of a phone, yet without any menace or real sense of urgency. It’s noble in its efforts and ambitions, yet Lee seems less concerned with the consistency of the themes than in justifying insufferable action set-pieces.
Riddled with uninspiring performances from likeable performers, this thriller doesn’t hit the political punch it hopes to aspire to. It takes heavy subject matter and makes it into a heavy-handed film, with too many over-complicated plot developments and clichéd storylines. I think it’s safe to say that much like the majority of Lee’s filmography (Food of the Gods II, Ski School, Terminal Rush), A Dark Truth will probably take a spot on the untouched section of the straight-to-DVD shelf at your local video store.
Released on DVD video through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, A Dark Truth is presented in a ratio of 1:78:1 and, given the film’s rather meagre budget, is mostly passable in its presentation. There are a few quandaries, however. The cinematography does add to the underlying problem of everything feeling rather made-for-TV. A couple of moments in the jungle look as though they’ve been filmed with relatively cheap equipment yet unsurprisingly they’re as unmemorable as the film itself, so they won’t bother you as much. It’s rather too bright in places, and too grainy during the shoot-out sequence in Canada. The soundtrack, in DD5.1, is clear and audible throughout with optional subtitles provided for the non-English dialogue. Subs for the hard-of-hearing are also present, alongside numerous other languages (see below). As for the extras, there is only a ‘Behind the Truth’ featurette detailing the intricacies of the story, with in-depth analysis from cast and crew, which is rather pleasing yet truncated at 13 minutes long.