Nothing But the Truth.jpgHow do you know who your friends are in Washington?  They're the ones who stab you in the chest.

That old joke captures the hard-edged quality of political combat in the nation's capital better than most Hollywood films, perhaps because Hollywood tends to portray power not as it is actually wielded but as a dark, comic-book conspiracy.

One recent exception to this rule is Nothing But the Truth, a 2008 film based loosely on the 2005 story of Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who went to jail rather than name the source who leaked to her the identity of NOC (non-official cover) CIA agent Valerie Plame.

But I almost hesitate to mention the Miller-Plame case, because this film goes far beyond it, to a realm that in its quiet, minimally violent way is truly unnerving.  This is due to no-nonsense writing and directing by Rod Lurie.  But it is even more the achievement of the actors.

As the reporter who suffers a grimmer fate than Miller did, Kate Beckinsdale is solid if uninspired.  But that doesn't matter, because she is surrounded by amazing performances: Matt Dillon as the friendly but feral special prosecutor who goes after her; Alan Alda as the preening but (in the end) principled lawyer who defends her; Vera Farmiga as the changeling spy; and (surprise) prominent First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams as the judge.

This all may sound like standard fare, but it is not.  These characters are more real, and more intimidating, than those in almost all other political thrillers.  Maybe that's because the issue at stake is also more genuine.
August 9, 2009 5:27 PM |



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This page contains a single entry by Martha Bayles published on August 9, 2009 5:27 PM.

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