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Toronto International Film Festival
TORONTO — Tackling the theme of journalistic integrity successfully addressed by “All the President’s Men,” “Absence of Malice” and “Shattered Glass,” “Nothing but the Truth” is a ripped-from-the-headlines but fictionalized account of a newspaper reporter who lands in jail when she refuses to reveal the source who outed a covert CIA agent.
The Rod Lurie film is a typically intelligent if occasionally overwritten political thriller, boasting a powerhouse cast headed by Kate Beckinsale, Vera Farmiga and Alan Alda.
Despite those fine performances and the incendiary subject matter, the picture is never as gripping as it should have been.
Lurie, a former journalist, methodically lays all the stakes but fails to raise them sufficiently; there’s no heightened tension or quickening of pace that would have propelled it to a more involving level.
Still, just as he demonstrated with Joan Allen’s Oscar-nominated turn in “The Contender,” Lurie has a knack for drawing the best out of his actors, and Yari Film Group’s marketing people have plenty of awards-worthy candidates to work with here.
In her most accomplished performance, Beckinsale plays Rachel Armstrong, a journalist for a major Washington newspaper who’s on the fast track to the Pulitzer with a story fingering fellow wife and mother Erica Van Doren (Farmiga) as a CIA agent who had traveled to Venezuela to investigate the country’s alleged role in an assassination attempt on the U.S. president.
When Rachel declines to spill her source, she’s deemed a threat to homeland security by Patton Dubois (Matt Dillon), a pit bull of a special prosecutor, who persuades the judge (respected First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams) to toss her in jail for contempt of court.
Weeks turn into months as her attorney, Albert Burnside (Alda in a tailor-made role), argues her case all the way up to the Supreme Court — and all the while, Rachel holds firm, much to the disapproval of her writer husband (David Schwimmer).
Lurie’s script gives his cast — also including Angela Bassett and Noah Wyle — plenty to chew on, with some of the best lines going to Alda. But there are moments that cry out for a little breathing room, especially where the Beckinsale and Farmiga characters are concerned, which would have allowed the audience to really get a sense of their interior emotional states.
It’s still undeniably involving, but you can’t help but wonder what a Sydney Pollack or Alan J. Pakula might have done with the same potent material.
Production: Battleplan Prods.
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Vera Farmiga, Angela Bassett, Alan Alda, Matt Dillon.
Director-screenwriter: Rod Lurie.
Executive producers: Dennis Brown, David C. Glasser, William J. Immerman, James Spies.
Producers: Bob Yari, Marc Frydman, Rod Lurie.
Director of photography: Alik Sakharov.
Production designer: Eloise Stammerjohn.
Music: Larry Groupe.
Costume designer: Lynn Falconer.
Editor: Sarah Boyd.
Sales agent: Syndicate Films International.
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