Directed by: Rod Lurie
Premise: A national newspaper publishes a bombshell story revealing the identity of a CIA agent. When the reporter (Kate Beckinsale) refuses to reveal her source to federal investigators she is sent to prison on charges of contempt.
What Works: Nothing But the Truth is an exceptional film, mixing the investigative reporter genre with the courtroom drama very effectively. Nothing But the Truth is a very good example of dramatizing material that is fundamentally legal and expository in nature. The filmmakers have found ways to explore issues like the limits of the First Amendment, the power of the state to ensure national security, and the limited power of news stories within a media saturated culture, and keep it entertaining. The film accomplishes that by spending a great deal of effort on the characters, fleshing them out and giving all of them very full characterizations. The actors do a great job delivering in their performances. Kate Beckinsale gives one of the best performances of her career as a reporter who is put through hell by the justice system and there are some strong supporting performances by Alan Alda as a defense attorney, Matt Dillon as the federal prosecutor, and Vera Farmiga as the exposed CIA agent. Through these characters, the film keeps the academic and emotional strands of the story tightly interwoven so that one is inseparable from the other. This is very good writing and it makes the film work.
What Doesn’t: Nothing But the Truth is at least inspired by the case of Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter who was jailed for nearly three months after publicly identifying CIA agent Valerie Plame. Although the First Amendment issues as presented in the film are still relevant, viewers should be aware that this is not a direct adaptation of the Miller case and most key factors have been changed for the fictional scenario.
DVD extras: Commentary track, deleted scenes, and a featurette.
Bottom Line: Nothing But the Truth is a terrific film about complicated issues and it uses the issues in collusion with character work to deliver a story that provides the human component of a legal and academic topic.
Episode: #247 (July 19, 2009)