Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nothing But The Truth (2008)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale) is about to risk her career, freedom, and family for a controversial headline story. Rachel works for the Capital Sun Times as an aggressive and persistent reporter, who won’t take no for answer. Rachel crosses paths with Erica Van Doren (Vera Farmiga), a covert operative for the CIA. Unbeknownst to Erica, Rachel and Erica share a bond as soccer moms.

But Rachel is more interested in Erica’s top secret information about a recent assassination attempt on the President Of The United States. Venezuela is at the top of the list for prime suspects, and Erica took a trip to Venezuela, but Erica vehemently refuses to help Rachel with any inside info.

Rachel sidesteps Erica with some help from a secret source to publish the article revealing inside info for the President’s assassination attempt. Rachel receives support from her trusted editor Bonnie Benjamin (Angela Bassett), and Bonnie convinces a reluctant Avril Aaronson (Noah Wyle), the Capital Sun Times legal counselor, to support and assist Rachel. The story hit’s the front page to stir up a frenzy in Washington and the media. Rachel is under fire for treason after revealing top secret information. She’s labeled a traitor to her country, and Judge Hall (Floyd Abrams) throws Rachel in jail for contempt of court, because Rachel refuses to give up her source.

Erica, her husband Oscar (Jamey Sheridan), and her young daughter, Allison (Kristen Bough) are caught in the crossfire after Rachel’s story hits. Erica is a prime suspect, and the CIA won’t stop until Erica tells the truth about her relationship with Rachel.

Meanwhile, Rachel, sticking to her beliefs of journalistic integrity, is stuck in jail for refusing to cooperate and reveal her source. The Capital Sun Times hires Albert Burnside (Alan Alda), a famed veteran with an impeccable record as a defense attorney, as Rachel’s attorney, but Rachel runs into a big roadblock during the proceedings.

Special Federal prosecutor Patton Dubois (Matt Dillon) is determined to break Rachel’s spirit until she cooperates with the investigation, and Dubois will do anything within the limits of the law to force Rachel into revealing her source. Months pass during Rachel’s time in jail, and her silence comes with a costly price. Rachel is running a serious risk of ruining a happy relationship with her alienated son, Timmy (Preston Bailey), and Rachel’s husband, Ray (David Schwimmer) questions Rachel’s priorities and her loyalty to the family. Will Rachel give up her source to return to her family and a normal life, and save Erica from a doomed future with no hope?

Kate Beckinsale is the stand out star here. Beckinsale deserves credit for a strong effort and a believable performance, because you can feel everything Rachel’s going through. The sadness, the rage, the frustration, the hopelessness, the anger, everything. It’s all about Rachel, her decision to say quiet and protect her source, and the rippling domino effect in the government, the Supreme Court, and everyone involved in the scandal.

Matt Dillon delivers a noteworthy performance as Dubois. He’s a cold-hearted bully, who won’t stop until Rachel cracks and spills the beans. Vera Farmiga is solid as Erica, and Alan Alda brings his A-game as a seasoned veteran. There’s nothing special about David Schwimmer’s performance. Noah Wyle is decent, as a guy, who’s towing the lines between defending Rachel, and doing what’s best for the Capital Sun Times. And there’s nothing wrong with Angela Bassett’s performance, but she’s limited to sporadic here and there performances throughout the movie.

So who’s the source? It’s Erica’s daughter, Allison. Yep. In a flashback during the finale, they reveal more footage from the early moments of the movie. Rachel is a chaperone on a field trip for Timmy and Allison. Allison reveals details in an argument (Allison was eavesdropping, unintentionally) between Erica and Oscar, where Erica mentioned her trip to Venezuela. After revealing the information, Allison urges Rachel to keep everything a secret, and Rachel agrees.

But don’t look for any happy endings here. Dubois backs Rachel into a corner, and she’s forced to accept his deal for a two year stint in prison (Dubois promised Rachel he would make her life a living hell in a trial). Rachel alienated Timmy during her time in jail, so Timmy is still holding a grudge against Rachel during a teary good-bye. And a crazy assassin murders Erica in her driveway one day.

A gut-wrenching series of events to close out the movie. In the end, Rachel didn’t break, but she payed a bigger price with a broken family and a prison sentence. Timmy resents his mother for neglecting him, Ray willingly started an affair with another woman, and there’s an awkward sex scene (intentionally, of course) with Ray and Rachel during a visit in jail.

But when you see the clip of Rachel promising to stick to her promise for Allison, you have to admire Rachel’s dedication and loyalty. She was taking a chance of risking her freedom, destroying her family, and she had to worry about the risk of wearing the label of a traitor to her country. But Rachel made the decision, she suffered for that decision, because Rachel refused to break her promise to a little girl, who trusted her with the truth.

Nothing But The Truth’s methodical pacing enhances feelings of desperation and hopelessness for Rachel. From start to finish, you see every step in Rachel’s rise and fall story. First, she’s the hot reporter with a controversial story, but as the story develops, Rachel’s life devolves into a never ending downward spiral of misery.

Her family is broken, and Rachel makes a transition from the victimized and sympathetic hero with big headlines to a forgotten hot topic, who lost her fifteen minutes of fame. Albert hits Rachel with the cold, hard truth during a visit in jail. In jail, days turn into months, and there’s a counter (adding up the number of days) at the bottom of the screen in every other scene to keep track of Rachel’s time in jail. Also, Rachel hits rock bottom after a nasty fight with an angry bunkmate in jail.

It’s a saddening series of events to watch. One minute, Rachel is this brave reporter, who’s taking a bold stand against the nasty bullies in suits. Towards the end? That’s a different story. The vast majority of Rachel’s support team (including Albert) hit a point of frustration, because they’re tried of fighting a seemingly unwinnable battle. To add to that, Rachel’s pleas for an unfair and sexist double standard are ignored  by Dubois. Rachel believes a man in her shoes would receive unquestioned support as a hero, but as a woman, Dubois sees a whiny and selfish person, who’s looking for a Pulitzer Prize award.

Nothing But The Truth is a smooth, emotional, and well-executed political thriller, featuring an overall sturdy cast, and a few surprising twists and turns at the end. Kate Beckinsale delivers the best performance in her career here (I love the Underworld films as much as anyone, but it’s the truth), and it’s an impressive feat, when you consider the other noteworthy names (Bassett and Alda as seasoned veterans, and Farmiga ) in this cast.

Rating: 8/10

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