A Dark Truth is one of those unfortunate projects whose component parts are immediately at odds with one another. Without inventively embracing the limitations of its budget, it features a number of well-known actors whose star power has long since diminished (Andy Garcia, Forest Whitaker, and Eva Longoria among them), inert action sequences, and an abundance of unconvincing practical effects. Not a one of these elements is a deal-breaker unto itself, but all of them taken together make for a would-be thriller that’s nowhere near as engaging as it’s meant to be. One early scene finds a despondent refugee making a show of offing himself in front of a woman who works for the company involved in the pillage of his Ecuadorian homestead; shortly thereafter we see Whitaker’s Francisco Francis beat a man to death with a rock. Such moments are rarely graphic or overblown enough to feel gratuitous, but neither do they feel earned.
“The C.I.A. does not sue,” says spy turned talk radio host Jack Begosian (Garcia) minutes into the film, which details the aftermath of a water crisis-spurred massacre in South America, “They have several other options.” Snippets of Jack’s expository speechifying are interspersed throughout, laying out the film’s chosen themes long before the narrative set pieces have had a chance to fall into place and speak for themselves. Striking a balance between world-weary cynicism and glimmers of hope, his monologues are so on the nose as to obviate the need for us to ponder what’s truly at work in this eco-friendly exercise. Whether this comes from a lack of confidence in the script or in the audience’s intelligence is difficult to gauge, but either answer is problematic. Certain of these problems are alleviated somewhat once Jack arrives in Ecuador as a hired gun (if nothing else, at least the jungle provides for a more visually stimulating backdrop than his recording booth), but the action-laden foray into this particular heart of darkness has more in common with Tears of the Sun than the more accomplished works Lee is emulating.
What with its corporate cover-up, third-world intrigue, and reluctant operatives struggling to do the right thing, A Dark Truth is clearly aiming for high drama, and the performers, particularly Garcia, do as much as they can to enliven and add weight to the proceedings. But they’re so hampered by the bland script that their best efforts ultimately do little to stop this from resembling a made-for-TV movie rather than the harrowing drama it so badly wants to be.