Thinking Pulitzer Prize and hoping to bring down a President, D.C. political columnist Rachel Armstrong writes that the President ignored the findings of a covert CIA operative when ordering air strikes against Venezuela. Rachel names the agent, Erica Van Doren, a woman whose young daughter is in Rachel's son's class at school. The government moves quickly to force Rachel to name her source. She's jailed for contempt when she refuses. She won't change her mind, and the days add up. Chaos descends on Van Doren's life as well. First Amendment versus national security, marriage and motherhood versus separation. What's the value of a principle? Written by
Floyd Abrams, who plays the judge in the film and is also credited as technical advisor, is a real-life attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), for which he has litigated cases raising issues of First Amendment rights and national security similar to those at the heart of the film's plot. See more »
Numerous times, Rachael is referred to as "Miss Armstrong", but since she's married, the correct title is "Mrs." See more »
I first heard about this film because of Matt Dillon, one of my favourite actors. He is the second billing in this film, right behind Kate Beckinsale, also starring Vera Farmiga, Alan Alda, Angela Bassett, and David Schwimmer.
The film is about Rachel Armstrong, a reporter (Beckinsale) who has written the story of her life: a military coup by the United States on a South American country was a lie, a Watergate, an operation that could get a president impeached. One CIA agent (Farmiga) had been there before the attack and had reported that there was no need to attack. They attacked anyway, and through a number of sources, Armstrong succeeds in finding the story. When the paper hits, the government realizes that they must find out the original source of Armstrong. Hired to find out this story is Patton Dupois (Matt Dillon), who goes after Armstrong with a ruthless but aloof determination. She is held in contempt of court when she refuses to reveal her source, and she is put in jail. Armstrong's boss (Bassett) and her lawyer (Alda) urges her to keep up the stand she has taken, while her husband (Schwimmer) is angry that she has done this. She herself must cope with the consequences of taking on the government, and the pressure just lays on throughout the story.
Beckinsale keeps the story going easily with her brilliant performance. The story is of course, focused on her, and the effect of imprisonment and interrogation can be seen on her face when she sees her son through the glass of visiting hours, or when Dupois questions her in court. Matt Dillon is also a brilliant actor, and I hope the two of them get nominated this year. However, while Dillon deserves it, I think Alda will end up with the nomination, who is both witty and cynical throughout the court battles.
The film's true strength comes from the fact that it is not a true Hollywood film. There is a tone about it that is certainly not like a usual story like this. The characters are dark, but also with redeeming qualities. Schwimmer's character of the husband does hurtful things, but out of weakness rather than malice. Dillon's character is ruthless in his prosecution, but in truth, he is just doing his job well. Even Beckinsale's character is not the underdog hero that this film could have been about. Thankfully, this movie takes a different route.
It was a real enjoyment seeing this film. Dillon shines as he usually has when I've seen him, and so do Beckinsale and Farmiga. The only over-the-top character is that of Avril Aaronson, played by Noah Wyle, and is thankfully overshadowed by the good performances of those who carry the film.
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