As energetic as its subject, Avi Belkin’s propulsive new documentary profiles the veteran broadcaster who became infamous for his hard-hitting interviews and “gotcha” segments on 60 Minutes. Because Wallace came of age with the birth of television and remained active for decades to follow, the movie also serves as a time capsule that spans more than half a century.
I lived through all of this, but even I had to pause for a moment to remember names that once were newsworthy and now have faded with time, from Thomas Eagleton and John Ehrlichman to Leona Helmsley. Belkin’s decision not to identify Wallace’s interview subjects until the end of the film may mute its impact for viewers who weren’t around in the 1960s, 70s, or 80s. But he does capture the essence of Wallace’s TV persona and offers tantalizing excerpts from a wide variety of programs, from early confrontations with columnist Drew Pearson and the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to later segments with Barbra Streisand, Vladimir Putin, Oprah Winfrey, and the Ayatollah Khomeni (!), to name just a few.
We also get to see how Wallace responds when the tables are turned and he is on the firing line, confessing some of his regrets as a much-married man and absentee parent. The film is light on biographical information, perhaps because there was so much material to cram into one feature-length film. There is no mention of his son, newsman Chris Wallace, although we catch a glimpse of them together on TV late in the proceedings.
Ultimately, through candid talks with colleagues like Barbara Walters and Morley Safer we come to understand what drove this aggressive newsman and how he viewed himself at different stages of his long career.
Having watched Wallace since childhood, when he was a familiar face hosting game shows and doing commercials, I was riveted to the screen from start to finish. As a character portrait and reflection on an era, Mike Wallace is Here is as vibrant and timely as its subject.
To learn more about when the film may be playing, go to https://www.mikewallaceishere.com/