Few journalists craft immortality in their careers. Yet Dan Rather, the longtime anchor of CBS News and 60 Minutes journalist, accomplished what few could. A new documentary, wisely named Rather, filmmaker Frank Marshall explores the career of the iconic newsman. Marshall explores his influential work and stories by showcasing the highlights of Rather’s career. It’s a powerful feature, but unfortunately, it rarely rises above standard bio-doc conventions.
Rather broke through into the mainstream during the Civil Rights movement. A journalist by trade, he put his life on the line for many stories. Whether it was covering the Vietnam War, a hurricane, or Tienneman Square, he repeatedly put his life and future on the line. Rather’s nearly seven-decade career defies logic, but his authenticity and fact-finding point to his incredible career.
Marshall lets Rather tell his own story. His willingness to allow filmmakers into his life opens the door to fun anecdotes. The iconic honesty that Rather became known for is present throughout the film. The archival footage presents him in glory and showcases his penchant for dangerous activities.
Ultimately, Rather cannot quite stand out because of its formulaic structure. The story mostly proceeds chronologically, with talking heads providing context to his various achievements. The career of Dan Rather remains one of the most impressive in the history of his field. Yet that does not make the film stand out from a novel or a book about him. This does not make Rather a failure as a piece of film, but it does not make it an iconic work in the medium. Those who want to learn more about Rather will find it compelling, and those who love the man will enjoy his greatest hits.