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This was shown last night at the Toronto International Film Festival
and was very well received. It is a beautifully acted, deftly written
examination of the tension between freedom of the press and the power
of the state, based very loosely on the Valerie Plame case. The fact
that writer and director Rod Lurie spent 13 years in the newspaper
business is evident throughout, making for one of the most compelling
and believable portrayals of what it is like to be a political reporter
for a major newspaper since All the President's Men. Kate Beckinsale
(the reporter) and Vera Farmiga (as the CIA operative) are outstanding
and each delivers an Oscar-worthy performance. Matt Dillon gives one of
his best performances as the smarmy, ambitious and self-righteous
prosecuting attorney. David Schwimmer, an odd casting choice, does a
fine job within a fairly narrow range. Surprisingly, I even enjoyed
Alan Alda's performance as a high-powered, rather cynical and
self-obsessed Washington lawyer, hired to defend the beleaguered
reporter. But the two women really steal the show.
There was much discussion in our group about the ending and whether it enhanced or undercut the basic message of the film. No point in spoiling it here, but I can assure you it will provoke debate.
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.
I saw this film at a press screening last weekend. Wow! What an
achievement. This story is masterfully executed, creating a lyrical and
deeply affecting empathy with the film's lead character, played with
Oscar-worthy precision and nuance by Kate Beckinsale. This film is
truly about something, which isn't as common as I think we'd hope with
movies. It has truly meaningful themes that are dramatized in an
entertaining, emotional and often eloquent way. The acting is
top-notch. The direction is confident.
I don't want to say much about the plot because it has some nice twists and touching moments that come from the organic development of the characters' relationships, their conflicts and their fight for what they believe in. This film is about principle. This film unapologetically stands for the power of our word and the example we set for our children. It's a must-see this Holiday season. It may only have a limited release due to complications experienced by its distributor, so get out now and see it! Don't just wait for DVD. This one is an outstanding experience in the presence of others because in many ways it's about what unites us when we believe in ourselves and the integrity of other.
Anytime I see a project that has Rod Lurie attached, I can't get to a
screening fast enough. His writing is always intelligent, decisive,
thought provoking, timely and topical, with a story that embraces
integrity, ethics, morals and social conscience. His direction is
always with military crispness, sharp and clean. His casting choices
are impeccable and his characters well crafted, multi-textural,
fractured human beings that have a fire about them that draws one as a
viewer ever deeper into the story and the film. Lurie now attains even
greater heights with the riveting NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH. Championing
justice and the high price of integrity, conviction and principle, he
takes a page from today's headlines and makes it his own with a story
involving a top notch journalist and an exposed undercover CIA
operative and the the fight to protect not only a source but the values
of motherhood, family, privacy and the right to know.
Kate Beckinsale is mesmerizing as Rachel Armstrong. A physically demanding role given the intense prison sequences, her physicality pales in comparison to the emotional intensity and strength she puts forth on screen. Like a caged animal, she calculates every move, every action, every reaction with an internal ferocity that ignites every scene. Equally amazing is Vera Farmiga as Erica Van Doren. Having just seen Farmiga as a devoted loving WWII mother in "The Boy In The Striped Pajamas", I was blown away by her tough as nails, hard core performance as Van Doren which she balanced with a carefully toned maternal edge; an act equaling that of Beckinsale's maternal double edged sword.
As if the women aren't reason enough to be on the edge of your seat with Lurie's taut script, enter Noah Wylie, Matt Dillon and Alan Alda. Noah Wylie was a surprise casting choice as Avril Aaronson but he is a completely neurotic firey self-involved frenetic attorney - to a tee. But then toss in a little taste of a legal oil slick in the form of Matt Dillon as prosecutor Patton Dubois and the ante is upped exponentially. As Dubois, Dillon brings new levels of arrogance and self-importance to the perception of attorneys (and trust me, many are very arrogant) which sparks dynamic chemistry between he and Beckinsale. And then there's Alan Alda. Always a welcome addition to any film, and particularly a Rod Lurie film, Alda is the voice of reason, the conscience of the film. He gives reasoned voice to the character of Rachel and never moreso than in one of the most impassioned and empowered monologues addressing the Supreme Court. That exquisitely written argument and Alda's delivery is phenomenal. It is the social conscience and fundamental essence of the film. Powerful and priceless, it's eloquence defies description.
Lurie himself even says, "I think Kate is just fantastic in the film, as is Vera and Alan. " A real coup was the casting of one of the seminal First Amendment attorneys in the United States, Floyd Abrams, who stepped in not only to play Judge Hall, but he also served as technical adviser on the film. Sometimes he would stop in the middle of the shoot and say 'this is wrong' to which Lurie would tell him, 'You're playing it, play it right." The meticulous detail of the written structure is equaled by Lurie's fine tuned direction. Metaphorically addressing the issues of the film through light and texture, the visual aspect of the film is as interesting as the dialogue. What strikes me most, however, is the intricately woven clues that lead up to the surprise climactic ending where we finally do learn the answers to Rachel's personal convictions. It will blow your mind.
Intelligently written. Potent performances. Superlative gripping story. A principled film that speaks soberly and passionately about standing up for one principles; be it a soccer mom, CIA agent or reporter. When all is said and done there is NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH.
Written and directed by Rod Lurie.
For my complete review of the film and interviews with Rod Lurie and Kate Beckinsale, go to www.moviesharkdeblore.com
Quietly, cautiously and self-consciously, Rod Lurie has for nearly a decade now worked at building a sterling reputation as the most significant writer-director of substantial films since Oliver Stone. In such movies as "The Contender" and Abc-TV's "Commander In Chief", Lurie has dealt with politics and journalism and, in his uniquely appealing way, the odd, complex, symbiotic relationship between them. That vision was extended to also comment on--criticizing more than celebrating--the mystery of macho values, be they in actual combat or the athletic sphere, in "Resurrecting The Champ", "The Last Castle", and TV's "Line Of Fire"; here's a theme Lurie is certain to explore to its fullest in his announced remake of the controversial Sam Peckinpah classic "Straw Dogs".
Meanwhile, Lurie has returned to his original combination of preoccupations for "Nothing But The Truth", the film that will, if there is any justice in the world (and at the box-office), arc his reputation from cult indie filmmaker for the educated-elite into the most important mainstream movie maker in the business, able to entertain with edge of your seat suspense while quietly informing you about the most important elements in our society.
Clearly, "Nothing But The Truth" was inspired by the Valerie Plame/Judy Miller incident: the film focuses on a curious relationship that develops between a reporter (Kate Beckinsale) and a spy (Vera Farmiga) when the former "outs" the latter in a newspaper story. Yet anyone expecting a combination of docudrama and roman-a-clef will be in for a surprise. Rather than remain slavishly true to the details, or even the essence, of the real-life situation, Lurie employs the premise but loosely, in order to explore those issues that most matter to him: the powers of the press and the politicos, as well as the impact of their natural conflict on the all-important First Amendment.
But don't think for one moment that this turns out to be some dry 'message movie.' "Nothing But The Truth" plays as a Hitchcockian thriller, right down to the twist ending that makes a mainstream viewer want to go back and watch the movie over again, just to try and spot the hints of what is in store for us at the conclusion so as to try and grasp how we "never saw it coming" even though Lurie prepared us every inch of the way.
There are great lines here that people will be quoting for years as phrases and statements enter into our idiomatic English. Lurie's direction proves as scintillating as his writing: subtle touches make clear that he knows how to tell a story visually as well as verbally. Likely, film critics of today and cinema historians of the future will debate his smart directorial decisions; yet they are so subtly done that the average viewer will remain entirely unaware of them (the way, of course, it should be), blithefully enjoying a terrific 'show' as all the artistry is understated.
Best of all, Lurie--though clearly a liberal--never preaches to us in the manner we have come to expect (and, if the failure of W is any indication, finally reject) from Oliver Stone. Stone's movies are all centered around some idea which he hammers home. Lurie's films contain numerous ideas without ever becoming simplistically ideological. Though we clearly grasp what he thinks about important issues, Lurie leaves us free to make up our own minds. Stone tells us precisely what to think; Lurie explains what we ought to be thinking about. It's the difference between propaganda and education, the one narrowing our own intellectual abilities, the other expanding them.
Expect this to be the breakthrough film for an expansive auteur who gets a little bit better with each picture, though it's hard to see how he'll top this one. Then again, those of us who discovered his work early on said that about "The Contender" and every film he has made since.
--Douglas Brode Professor of Cinema/Television Studies The Newhouse School, Syracuse University
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
until the ending, which exposes this film as another piece of Hollywood
propaganda. We have seen these types of films countless times, but this
one is done extremely well.
All of the actors deliver top-notch performances, and the script is good. The movie, while slowly paced, is still entertaining and works on many levels --as a mystery and as political commentary.
So why am I giving this film only a 6/10? Well,
--- SPOILER ----
The ending completely ruins this film and makes Beckinsale's character a martyr. Why would a reporter so fiercely protect her "source" when the government would not be able (and would not want to) prosecute a child? It makes no sense for Beckinsale to go to the lengths that she does - ruining her family and Farmiga's - to shield a child who, when exposed, would never be made public or legally held liable anyway!
--- END of SPOILER ---
If not for the ridiculous reasoning behind Beckinsale's reluctance to divulge her "source," this could have been a very good, if not great, movie. However, because her character is an imbecile, I cannot deem this film as much more than political propaganda based on a horribly flawed (almost humorously bad) premise.
Kate Beckinsale, Vera Farmiga, Alan Alda, Matt Dilon. Such great cast
alone was enough "quality stamp" for me to get me interested in this
film. I must say Nothing But The Truth has exceeded my expectations
many times over.
Based on a true story, the basic plot line has close focus on a reporter of a Washington D.C. major newspaper Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale) who after writing an article on the US president's actions revealing the identity of a secret CIA agent Erica Van Doren (Vera Farmiga) is being pressured to reveal her secret source by the government in such ways she could never have imagined.
The story flows flawlessly, picks up nicely and slowly drags you into a twist of controversial emotions, drawing the characters with all their pros and cons and letting you slowly get acquainted with their moral inner fights.
Beckinsale and Farmiga have a great energy between them that will have you forget you're watching a movie and catch your breath at the few scenes at which they confront each other. Alda, as usual is a brilliant defender of humanity and freedom. Dilon's take on the "hyenous prosecutor" is so tremendously real will all aspects of belief in his work it's simply scary.
Alik Sakharov great DoP work on this film shows every muscle moving on the actors' faces, which underlines the great work of the actors.
This film definitely proves Lurie knows what he's doing out there and I'll definitely have my eye on his future work.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Nothing But The Truth" should be studied by screenwriters and
directors for years. It is a perfect illustration of a writer/director
not thinking clearly about his topic, and choosing gimmickry and
preaching over clarity and intelligence.
When it was revealed (in a marvelous M. Night Shyamalan-style twist ending that turned the film from preachy to idiotic) that the source of the story was the daughter of the CIA agent, I threw my Netflix envelope across the room and yelled, "Thanks for wasting my time, Rod!" Let's pick it apart:
When a reporter chooses to not reveal a source, they do so for very good reasons among which are usually fear for the source's safety, career, prosecution, harassment, reputation or otherwise.
- Given that the reporter knew that the child could not be prosecuted, threatened or put in any negative situation other than a firm scolding from her mother, Beckinsale's character had no single reason to report the story, much less "protect her source," other than personal professional gain. Therefore, in the end, her character becomes a succubus, leeching off of the innocent mentionings of a child. Furthermore, revealing her source to the federal prosecutor would have led to nothing, and everyone could have gone on with their lives.
- Of course, a rational, thoughtful (Vassar and Columbia-educated, allegedly), kind, empathetic person would have spoken to the CIA agent mother about her daughter's slip-up, suggested that she be more careful about what she tells her, and decided that there was nothing positive to be gained from this story being published.
- Instead, we are asked to accept that Rachel Armstrong heroically stands by her principle of not revealing her source. In turn, she alienates and divorces her husband, loses custody of her son, gets the agent killed, and thus inflicts far more damage on the "source" (the daughter) than any revelation of her identity could have done.
In the end, this is a tragic example of a writer/director believing too much in his politics and his prose, and not enough in the power of sound analysis. The fact that no one in the development process pointed this fatal error out and had it struck from the script is sad, but not surprising. Hollywood is good at overlooking incompetence.
But to be fair, the reason I gave this movie 2 stars is that some credit should be given to Lurie's sense of technical direction, timing, cinematography, etc. Technically, the film was well executed. And the acting was very good. But for some reason, the term 'lipstick on a pig' comes to mind.
It's going to take a while for this palm print on my forehead to wear off.
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH does what the newspapers have basically stopped
doing: it focuses on issues that affect the nation from the very top of
the government down, revealing the machinations of behind the scenes
secrecy that could break the Bill of Rights into pieces. In many ways
it is a horror movie, if the story line of the film 'based on a real
incident' examined in such a carefully realized way is unknown to many
viewers Yes, movies are movies and need to alter names and places and
events to create a dramatic effect, but the story here is one that
needs diligent attention as we continue to re-evaluate the dense and
covered shadows that remain from the last administration.
An attempted assassination of the President too quickly leads to naming Venezuela as perpetrator and under the guise of 'national security' that country is placed as the target for a possible preemptive war (sound familiar?). Cover-up begins and an undercover CIA operative is disclosed by a gutsy female reporter whose story is so important that it suggests the possibility of being in line for a Pulitzer Prize. But the government doesn't want the truth to leak and the reporter is eventually jailed and imprisoned for refusing to reveal her source of the story. The ending of the film is indeed terrifying.
The well selected cast includes Kate Beckinsale as the brave reporter, Vera Farminga as the outed CIA operative, David Schwimmer as Beckinsale's frightened husband, Matt Dillon as the government henchman assigned to get Beckinsale to reveal her source and Alan Alda as the lawyer who supports Beckinsale's stance (his speech before the Supreme Court will be remembered as some of the finest and most gripping writing in years). Others in strong supporting roles include Angela Bassett, Noah Wylie, and Floyd Abrams.
Sam Lurie wrote and directed this engrossing film with the good sense to not hammer the audience over the head with the fairly obvious comparisons to the shenanigans of the Bush/Cheney administration, leaving the evidence in plain sight that when the President decides what can and can't be known to the public - in the name of 'homeland security' - our constitutional rights and even our democratic form of government is at stake. This is a fine movie, beautifully acted, and SHOULD be seen by everyone. Grady Harp
Very nice movie, a bit slow. Kate Beckinsale refuses to not look
completely edible even when she has jail scenes, while Vera Farmiga
looks just as good as to make one think it will be a movie about a cat
fight. But it is far from it. I think the best acted role in this movie
belongs to Matt Dillon, though.
The film portrays the trials (pun intended) of an American journalist who is jailed and then imprisoned for withholding the source of her article. Why? Because it involved matters of national security. Is national security more important than truth and integrity? The movie tries to explain why it is not by detailing how deep this is inscribed in the U.S. legislation. Basically, you can say whatever you want, just not what they don't want you to say.
Kate Beckinsale does a very good role, a bit airy and a bit brave. "A water walker", someone calls her character in the film. Best description ever :) David Schwimmer manages to be annoying in this one, as well.
Bottom line: a must see movie, however keep in mind that even if it based on the true story of Valerie Plame, it is very loosely so. Yet, without being American, my guess is that the legislation portrayed in the film exists and any reporter could and would go through the main character's ordeal if having enough backbone.
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