Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nothing but the truth

By s. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , ,
(108 min, 2008)
Director: Rod Lurie
Writer: Rod Lurie
Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon and Vera Farmiga
Don't reveal the source.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
- Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

Thinking Pulitzer Prize and hoping to bring down a President, D.C. political columnist Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale) 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 (Vera Farmiga). 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. First Amendment versus national security, marriage and motherhood versus separation. What's the value of a principle?
This movie is the perfect example of how far the writers will go nowadays in order to provide a shocking twist in the end of the movie. In case of “Nothing but the Truth” the price for the twist was very high – plausibility of the story. Scratch those last five minutes and you have a fantastic thriller, about important and complex conflict. Free speech or national security? Is is all right for the government to jail a person because of the information she gives to the public? Even if the information is true? Is it moral to destroy someone's entire life for the sake of telling the truth?

The movie's heart and it's best moments lie in the showdown between journalist Rachel and CIA agent Erica. But there really is no issue as for who you should root for if you consider the acting – Farmiga steals the show easily, from very pretty but as usual, bland Beckinsale. As far as acting abilities go, I believe this is the best Beckinsale can do – she doesn't have much talent and the only reason we feel for her character is because, essentially in the face of common sense, Rachel is an innocent person. She found out about something, she published the story and now she's in jail. It's frightening not because of what character is going through – it's scary because things like that can actually happen in real life.

Farmiga's performance is strong and unforgettable – her work in “Up in the Air” was terrific, but “Nothing but the truth” should have been her big break. When the movie focuses more on Rachel it starts to lose viewer's interest, but when fierce Erica is present it keeps you watching with the biggest fascination. Here is a woman, that you know would be equally effective in reading bedtime stories to her daughter and doing secret work for her country. Farmiga doesn't have that much screen time but the strong script provides her with wonderful material to work with. I found interesting piece of trivia and I'm going to quote it to show you how deep in her character's body Vera was - “There is a scene in the movie where Erica Van Doren is given a lie detector test because the CIA suspects that she leaked her own identity. Rod Lurie, the director brought in a real life polygraphist to polygraph her for the scene. He asked her if her name was Erica Van Doren and if she worked for the CIA. After the scene was over the polygraphist called Lurie over to tell him that Farmiga beat the polygraph test because the machine said that she was telling the truth.“

"Nothing but the truth" also features great performances from Matt Dillon as a confident attorney who tries to make Rachel give up her source and even though he comes off as bad guy, he technically doesn't do anything wrong – he just follows the law, and Alan Alda as the defense attorney. They are both great to watch in their scenes and Alda brings in a lot of warmth and humor to the movie. Rachel's husband is played by David Shwimmer from “Friends” and as much as his character differs from Ross, it's hard not to be distracted whenever he is on screen. Same goes for ER's Noah Wyle, who plays Rachel's boss.

The film has a very good script that fails at the very end. The ending, as much as it may have a lot of sense if you don't think about it, is extremely weak. Because when we find out who the source was, we really can't think of a reason why the source would need any secrecy from Rachel's, especially given all the horrible things that happened when she didn't confess who it was. Was she only fighting for general reasons? For the sake of not revealing the source? Because she is a journalist? I find it hard to believe, that when a woman is jailed, basically loses contact with everyone, can't be with her son, making world a better place would be her only concern. Had Farmiga played Rachel, because of the strength she has I'd believe that. But not when Beckinsale did. I'm not even certain if it was moral for Rachel to use that information in the first place, regarding who the source turned out to be. I can maybe agree with people who say that Rachel was protecting the source because nobody would tell reporters anything if they would easily give the names of the sources under pressure, but as for the argument of protecting the person for the sake of blocking the knowledge of how much blood is on its hands...well, no matter what Rachel does, the blood was spilled anyways.

Regardless of the end, the movie is still worth watching and it's one of the best, character driven films I've seen in recent years. It has great actors, appropriate pace and a mystery that when revealed will shock you. It also makes you wonder about things, about what would you do if you were in Rachel's place. That is – you think about it, throughout the entire film, except for the last scene.


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