Nothing but the Truth (2008 American film)

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Nothing but the Truth
Nothing but the truth film.jpg
Original poster
Directed by Rod Lurie
Produced by
Written by Rod Lurie
Starring
Music by Larry Groupé
Cinematography Alik Sakharov
Edited by Sarah Boyd
Production
  company
Yari Film Group
Distributed by Yari Film Group
Release date(s)
  • September 8, 2008 (2008-09-08) (TIFF)
  • December 19, 2008 (2008-12-19) (New York premiere)
Running time 108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $186,702[1]

Nothing but the Truth is a 2008 American drama film written and directed by Rod Lurie. According to comments made by Lurie in The Truth Hurts, a bonus feature on the DVD release, his inspiration for the screenplay was the case of journalist Judith Miller, who in July 2005 was jailed for contempt of court for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating a leak naming Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative, but this was merely a starting point for what is primarily a fictional story. In an April 2009 interview, Lurie stressed, "I should say that the film is about neither of these women although certainly their stories as reported in the press went into the creation of their characters and the situation they find themselves in." [2]

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2008. It was scheduled to open in New York City and Los Angeles on December 19, but because distributor Yari Film Group Releasing filed for Chapter 11 protection, it was never given a theatrical release.[2]

Plot[edit]

Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale) is an ambitious reporter for the Capital Sun-Times. When she discovers fellow soccer mom Erica Van Doren (Vera Farmiga) is working as a covert operative for the CIA and recently returned from Venezuela, where she was investigating an assassination attempt on the President of the United States, she confronts her and requests confirmation. Erica refuses to cooperate, but Rachel has no doubts about the veracity of the report, and her story becomes front-page news with the support of editor Bonnie Benjamin (Angela Bassett) and Avril Aaronson (Noah Wyle), who serves as the newspaper's legal counselor.

Because revealing a covert operative's identity is a treasonous offence and because the individual who leaked the information to Rachel is a potential threat to national security, special Federal prosecutor Patton Dubois (Matt Dillon) convenes a grand jury and demands to know who her source is, information she refuses to divulge. High profile attorney Albert Burnside (Alan Alda), hired by the newspaper to defend Rachel, is certain his personal friendship with Judge Hall will facilitate matters and is shocked when his client is jailed for contempt of court.

Days become weeks, and then months, but Rachel steadfastly defends the principle of confidentiality, a position that eventually estranges her husband Ray (David Schwimmer), alienates her young son Timmy (Preston Bailey), and costs her embattled newspaper millions of dollars in fines and legal fees. She is stricken when a member of an extremist right-wing group assassinates Van Doren in her own driveway, as he perceives Van Doren's report on Venezuela's innocence to be unpatriotic, but she remains silent. Eventually, the Vice President's former Chief of Staff comes forward and admits that he corroborated Armstrong's investigation into Van Doren's identity. However, Dubois is only interested in Armstrong's original source. Armstrong pleads to Dubois that she could never give up her source as they would have to deal with the consequential ramifications of the death of Van Doren. Burnside even argues her case before the Supreme Court, but they decide against him 5-4, citing the overriding concern of national security.

Eventually, Judge Hall decides to release Armstrong from jail, as he is convinced she will never divulge her source and, therefore, cannot be pressured through continued incarceration. On the day she is released, Dubois has the U.S. Marshals arrest her for obstruction of justice and convinces her to take a deal for a shortened sentence rather than go to trial. She agrees to two years in prison, with the possibility of early parole for good behavior. As Armstrong is taken to the facility, she reminisces about her time as a volunteer at Timmy's school, and when she spoke to Van Doren's daughter, Alison, who revealed to her on a school field trip that her mother worked for the government and recently went to Venezuela on "business", thus revealing Alison as the original source.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Attorney Floyd Abrams had argued for The New York Times and Judith Miller in the grand jury investigation of her report about Valerie Plame, and he was hired as a consultant on the film by screenwriter/director Rod Lurie, who was so impressed with his demeanor he cast Abrams as Judge Hall.

Critical reception[edit]

Kate Beckinsale at the premiere of Nothing But the Truth, at TIFF 2008

Although the film never officially opened, several critics who had seen it in advance screenings nonetheless published their reviews. The review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 45 out of the 56 reviews they tallied for the film were positive for a score of 80% and a certification of "fresh".[3] They summarized the critics consensus by saying, "A well-crafted political thriller, Nothing But the Truth features a strong cast that helps the real-life drama make an effortless transition to the big screen."[3] Manohla Dargis of the New York Times thought the "confusing film . . . mixes familiar plot points . . . with some grievous nonsense, most of which involves the two women’s irritatingly distracting home lives . . . That’s too bad for all sorts of reasons, including this one: when not cooing inanities at pipsqueaks, the actresses are pretty good, both together and individually. There’s pleasure in watching them go manolo a manolo against each other, particularly Ms. Farmiga, who fills out her size 0 with macho swagger. Despite a shaky start, Ms. Beckinsale does eventually look the part of the harassed and haggard heroine, if largely by not wearing any eye makeup." [4]

In the Los Angeles Times, Sam Adams observed the film "isn't ripped from the headlines so much as it's pasted together like a ransom note, using scraps so small their origins are indiscernible. The obvious inspiration for the story of a newspaper reporter who is jailed for refusing to reveal her sources is the Valerie Plame affair, and for a while the details match up . . . But from there, Lurie spins off into invention like a Law & Order writer on deadline, scrambling the issues so thoroughly it's no longer clear what, if anything, the movie is meant to address." [5]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the film three out of four stars and commented, "Lurie is expert at springing surprises and getting the best out of a first-rate cast. Beckinsale excels at finding the chinks in Rachel's armor. Farmiga goes so deep into her character you can feel her nerve endings. And Alda is simply superb as a lawyer whose peacock vanity about his designer wardrobe hardly prepares you for his moving argument for principles before the Supreme Court. Lurie also convinced Floyd Abrams, who represented Miller in court, to play the trial judge, and the canny counselor steals every scene he's in. Nothing But the Truth is currently in distribution hell, which means you might have to seek it out. It's worth the trouble. Lurie has crafted a different kind of thriller, one with a mind and a heart." [6]

Writing for the online Slant Magazine, Jay Antani stated, "The film easily could have gotten saddled with liberal polemics and pedestrian plot twists, but Lurie's focus is on lean, intelligent storytelling while keeping his righteous anger worked seamlessly into plotting and character development. Sarah Boyd's superb editing keeps apace with the taut, compelling script, and the performers are no slouches either. After years shunting between various genre vehicles, Beckinsale proves her chops as a serious dramatic actress. Dillon and Alda are dependably strong, while Bassett, Wyle, Farmiga, and Schwimmer provide sharp support. All combine to create a worthy political thriller whose good intentions don't spoil the pleasures of a good yarn well told." [7]

Stephen Garrett of Time Out New York thought the film was "both exhilarating and frustrating" because "So few movies dare to tackle intelligent, provocative, socially relevant topics in a mature framework that doesn’t condescend. But there’s a halfway point when the rush of watching the inner machinations of power players turns into the listless predictability of a TV courtroom drama, crossed with the voyeurism of a mild grindhouse prison movie." [8]

In reviewing the DVD release, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded it 3½ out of four stars and called it "a finely crafted film of people and ideas, of the sort more common before the movie mainstream became a sausage factory. It respects the intelligence of the audience, it contains real drama, it earns its suspense, and it has a point to make." [9]

Home media[edit]

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the film on DVD on April 28, 2009. It is in anamorphic widescreen format with an English audio track and subtitles. Bonus features include commentary with screenwriter/director Rod Lurie and producer Marc Frydman, The Truth Hurts: The Making of Nothing but the Truth, and eight deleted scenes.

References[edit]

External links[edit]