Nothing But The Truth

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Review (6.5/10)
(By Liam Cullin)

In "Nothing But the Truth", Kate Beckinsale stars as Rachel Armstrong, a writer for a fictional newspaper who uncovers a story which outs a CIA spy named Erica Van Doren (Vera Farmiga). The movie starts out with Rachel on a school bus with her son. A little girl approaches the teacher and tattles on a boy who's been pulling her hair. Rachel's son accuses the little girl of being a tattler. Rachel informs her son that it is better to tattle than to be the victim of a bully. This pretty much sums up the rest of the story. In the movie, the president is the target of an assassination attempt. As retribution for the attempt, the president orders an attack on Venezuela who he believes to be responsible. However, Rachel discovers through an unnamed source that the CIA spy went on a fact finding mission to Venezuela and found no evidence that Venezuela was involved. Rachel's story covers the angle thinking the story will bring down the presidency. Instead, Rachel finds herself the target of an investigation by the government led by special prosecutor Patton Dubois (Matt Dillon) looking to find out who the source who leaked the spy's information. After all, it is an act of treason to reveal the identity of a spy. Rather than reveal her source, Rachel chooses to be in contempt of court. She goes to prison to rot while her story becomes yesterday's news and her marriage and relationship with her young son crumbles. The movie also stars Alan Alda as Alan Burnside, Rachel's high powered attorney, Angela Bassett as her newspaper's editor, David Schwimmer as her husband and Noah Wyle as the newspaper's hot headed counsel.

The movie brings to memory the story of Valerie Plame who was revealed to be a spy in 2003 by The Washington Post. However writer-director Rod Lurie is careful to open the movie by revealing that the movie is "fictional". However, minus the assassination attempt, it's premise is similar enough to make you wonder why the filmmakers even bothered. Whatever likeness to the Valerie Plame affair, the movie should be judged on it's own merits. And here's my judgment. Going into the movie I read conflicting reviews. Some have called the movie "average" while others called Beckinsale's performance perhaps the best of her career so far. I found the movie to be a little better than average, while Beckinsale's performance was about as good as you'd expect. Perhaps it was the parent in me who questioned the lengths to which she went to protect her source, destroying her marriage and not seeing her son for more than a year. While I can respect her stance as a journalist, wouldn't her role as a parent be paramount? The movie references this, but uses the excuse that because she is a woman, she is looked down upon as a mother. Personally, it wouldn't matter as a mother or a father. You don't do that stuff to your family. Then again, I've never been in a similar situation. So how would I know.

Story and characters aside, my biggest issue with "Nothing But the Truth" was the way the movie was filmed, with an overuse of closeups that became tiresome very early. You've got the whole screen to work with. Use it. Sure, a lot of the story takes place in prison, and there's not a scenery to be had, but the giant faces on the big screen didn't work. I remember hearing at some point in my life that in the early years of television, news anchors were filmed in closeup which resulted in the audience coming to trust the person on the screen. I wondered during the movie if the same principle was at work here. That closeups were used so that we'd trust Rachel Armstrong and believe that her stance was worth fighting for. Personally, that kinda thing works better on the small screen. That's why we don't go to the movies to watch the nightly news.

As for the performances in the movie, the standout for me was Alan Alda who was perfectly cast as Alan Burnside. He starts out as the media friendly attorney with the expensive clothes, but ends the movie as one of the most human characters who believes in Rachel's willingness to protect her source. Dillon's performance also deserves a little credit even though at times I wanted to jump through the screen and remind him of what a prick he was being. As for Beckinsale, she was decent but, as a parent, I couldn't really relate. Even at the end when her source is finally revealed, there was a bit of an emotional punch, but I questioned if it was all really worth it. Which begs the question -- which is more important. Your integrity as a professional or your integrity as a parent? And where to you draw the line between the two?

Overall, I would call "Nothing But the Truth" worth seeing if you followed the story of Valerie Plame, but worth waiting for home video if you're just looking for a quiet night's entertainment. And maybe on your TV screen you'd be able to appreciate the movie's overuse of the closeup.
 

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