The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Nothing But The Truth

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Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Director Rob Lurie’s harrowing account of covert operations, governmental posturing, and journalistic freedom pitted against national security issues, is a political thriller, but screens like a modern day horror story where the monster is very real, very ravenous and nearly indestructible.

Based on the implications of the Judith Miller/Valerie Plame case, (in 2005, New York Times journalist Miller spent nearly three months in prison for refusing to reveal her source, the person who outed C.I.A. operative Plame), the film propels itself into exponentially explosive events which jail a reporter, Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale) for the same reason, with amplified consequences for all parties involved.

The C.I.A. operative in question, Erica Van Doren (Vera Farmiga) is a soccer-mom, like Armstrong, whose child attends the same D.C. elementary school.  Her husband Oscar (Jamey Sheridan) is the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, and Van Doren has information about that country’s  involvement (or lack thereof) in an assassination attempt on the President of the United States; the U.S. government is poised for a retaliatory strike on Caracas.  Armstrong’s information blows the lid off all of the government’s prevailing theories, exposing a rush to judgment that will be duplicated in the aftermath for both writer and subject.

Armstrong’s editor (Angela Bassett) green lights her incendiary story for the Capitol Sun-Times, amidst worried warnings from the publication’s in-house counsel (Noah Wylie).  After the story runs, life changes permanently for the two women, both suffering a loss of privacy and individual persecutions and suspicions.  While the F.B.I. hounds Armstrong for her source, the C.I.A. questions Van Doren about her loyalty.  Is she the source?

Special prosecutor Patton Dubois (Matt Dillon) brings Armstrong before a Grand Jury, as relentless as a pitbull in a death grip with its prey.  Even Armstrong’s accomplished attorney Albert Burnside (Alan Alda) can’t get her out of a sudden incarceration.  Neither can he get her source out of her.

In prison for an indefinite amount of time, Armstrong finds she’s been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, watches her marriage and relationship with her son crumble, and remains steadfast about not revealing her source.  Her writer husband (David Schwimmer) stops believing in her cause surrendering to infidelity and harbored recriminations.

The Supreme Court is called into the case, with Burnside arguing First Amendment protections for journalists.  Meanwhile, Van Doren experiences startling consequences of her own.  Months pass, unraveling surprising, disappointing, violent and sometimes tragic events.

Kate Beckinsale is quietly stoic and dignified as the principled journalist.  Vera Farmiga is formidable as the tough talking CIA operative whose world becomes invaded by words and notoriety when all she wants to do is attend her daughter’s soccer games. David Schwimmer as the spouse who languishes while his wife is in prison is understated and low-key, communicating anguish by what he doe not say.  Alan Alda is the face and voice of integrity to the point that the viewer almost loses faith if his character can’t score a courtroom victory.  Matt Dillon is slick and self-righteous as the confident Dubois.

Angela Bassett and Noah Wylie form a united front, supporting Beckinsale’s Armstrong through threats and fines.  They make Armstrong’s principled ordeal believable by their reaction to it.

Writer/director Rob Lurie (The Contender) keeps things taut by keeping them ordinary and even mundane at times.  The horror comes from how easily this type of confinement can happen to a citizen when slapped with a label that even a democratic government deems dangerous in the name of national security.  Quietly desperate, intense and ominous, Nothing But The Truth is an indictment of a hard-nosed, hawkish administration in these do or die times.  Seems no one minds the death part; and that may be the most dangerous mindset of all.