Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Nothing But the Truth: Grade C

Nothing But the Truth (2008)
Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Vera Farmiga, Alan Alda, Angela Bassett, David Schwimmer. Writer and Director Rod Lurie.

Vera Farmiga, who we do not see enough of on screen, is a covert CIA employee in Washington outed by a newspaper reporter (Beckinsale). National security officials (Dillon, Alda) require the reporter to reveal her source or go to jail. She chooses jail. In a final flashback we learn who the source was.

Despite a fine cast and some good acting by Farmiga and Dillon, the story is not very dramatic. Why should we care who the source was? It means nothing to us. Nor do we really care that the CIA agent was exposed. No consequences are suggested, nothing is at stake. The reporter goes to jail for some months, and her husband (Schwimmer) leaves her, but jail was her choice; what did she expect?

The real life story on which this unimaginative tale is based was rich and dramatic. The agent (Valerie Plame) was allegedly revealed by a deliberate leak from the GW Bush administration in order to punish her husband, Wilson, a diplomat on assignment for the CIA. Wilson claimed that Bush lied about Iraq having bought uranium from the African state of Niger, part of Bush’s justification for the invasion of Iraq. Wilson found the report of uranium sales was fraudulent, and later the CIA confirmed that. His wife’s career was ruined as retribution for him revealing the president’s lies, he claimed. The White House denied this, although an aide to Vice President Cheney was convicted of obstruction of justice in the case. It later was revealed that the leak had come from the State department, not the White House. Plame’s career was ruined nevertheless and she resigned the CIA.

That is a way better story than the simple-minded one this movie told. This event could have been made into a fabulous political thriller. Instead, the movie took a pedestrian approach: reporter declines to reveal source, goes to jail, the end. It is yet another of Hollywood’s inexplicable lost opportunities.

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