Michael Cramer and Troy Scoughton Jr.’s Truth starts with a premise that sounds familiar enough. The government has been engaging in covert experiments, combining viruses with nanotechnology to create the “ultimate truth serum” in its war against terror. The virus mutates, disaster strikes, and the black ops facility is shut down. Several years later, a group of students discovers the abandoned secret facility and decides to investigate.
It sounds like the typical setup for a typical zombie movie. But this film, which has a limited release pending, is not a zombie movie. Instead, it takes things in a different direction.
William McNamara is the senior member of the cast, both in filmography and in role, playing the young professor who is leading the troop of budding investigative journalists. He’s the one who is most motivated to get involved, and early on he’s the most interesting character. Later, the spotlight shifts more onto Robert William Dean as a socially withdrawn computer tech, and Sabrina Gomez as a young woman with more determination than direction.
The film uses its premise in an interesting way. This isn’t The Last Man on Earth, and it isn’t Outbreak. Rather, it’s more on the order of a psychological thriller, where the psyche itself is the subject of interest. The virus, after all, began as a truth serum. As people are inevitably infected, the parts of their personalities they have kept hidden start to be revealed. Most thrillers have the audience spend twenty minutes getting to know the characters and then begin the adventure. Truth starts with the infection, and then uses that as a means to get to know the characters; the psychological drama is the point as much as the fear of contagion. It is, at the very least, interesting for being a novel approach.
Does it pull it off? Not completely, but it comes close enough to keep it entertaining. The group is believably large, and it does feel a bit like the focus is spread a little too thin; not that there are necessarily too many people, but perhaps there’s too little time to devote to making the audience care about each of them. Several of the characters are ciphers, and even the focal characters are a bit flat. But there’s a lot that works, as well. There’s a sense of shared history among several characters, dating back to childhood (one gets the feeling this is a community college and several students are local). At the same time, there’s a mix of backgrounds that provides interesting contrasts and doesn’t feel forced. I have to note a particular pleasure in that here, for once, there’s an ensemble film with a Native American character that doesn’t stop the characterization or detail at “Native American”. Dyami Thomas’s character is an Apache, and there are a few times where his tribal heritage matters, and at all such times it is specific to the Apache and not passed off as a generic Native American trait. And while he isn’t the deepest character in the film, there is a little more to his character than just his heritage as well. While ethnicity does play into a lot of the drama in the film, among various characters, it’s rare enough that ensemble films try to go beyond it that it is praiseworthy when a film does, even if only a little.
Other things that work in the film’s favor are the setting and the actors. New Mexico works well as a backdrop for the film, providing a credible sense of isolation for the facility (and providing some nice scenic shots.) And the actors all turn in solid performances with their characters. Each portrays their fear and anger and other emotions in subtly different ways, giving them a bit more personality than is in the dialogue alone. There’s not a bad performance in the bunch. And the characters mostly make logical decisions, or when they don’t, it’s a decision that is justifiable given their emotional state or the mind-altering effect of the virus. There was only one time that I felt a character’s decision was unbelievably poor, and it was not a major character.
There’s a bit of overall roughness to the film, mostly in the reliance on characterization when that characterization isn’t fully developed. But it does enough to be entertaining, and its successes buy it some forgiveness when it falls short.
Disclaimer: Most of the films reviewed on Morgan on Media are my own selections. Truth was reviewed on request of PRC Productions and of fellow movie blogger Terrence Faulkner (The Focused Filmographer). PRC Productions provided me with a private streaming link to screen the film, but did not attempt to influence the content of the review nor provide any compensation or incentive for it beyond the screener. More information about the film may be found HERE.