Monday, 14 June 2010

The truth is elastic in fiction, especially fictionalised accounts of actual events. In Nothing But the Truth (2008), director Rod Lurie shows how far a reporter will go to protect a source when the thing at issue is "national security". Kate Beckinsale plays Rachel Armstrong, a political reporter based loosely on real-life New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent three months in jail for withholding the identity of her source for a story in which she revealed that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative.

Miller now works for the Fox News Channel. Her stories on weapons of mass destruction helped the Bush administration, in 2003, to convince Congress to go to war against the administration in Iraq. In this light, Miller's new role with a right-wing news service is not surprising. It is surprising that her case was used to make a story about an intrepid reporter who finds hersefl facing off against a determined federal administration.

Unlike Miller, Armstrong has a hard time taking the fight up to the government. Initially jailed for not revealing her source, Armstrong serves over a year in prison. The US Supreme Court then goes against her by ruling that she was in fact in contempt of court when she refused to reveal her source. And after the district court judge releases her, she is arrested again, this time on a criminal charge for the same offence.

Armstrong suffers further indignities due to her steadfastness. Her husband, Ray Armstrong (David Schwimmer), starts dating other women and her son is so embarrassed by the whole affair that he virtually gives up on his mother. He is helped along by Ray's contention that Rachel made a choice by refusing to identify her source. The father's lack of faith in Rachel leads the son to forsake his love for his mother.

The film contains a great many good scenes such as those which include the boy, Timmy (Preston Bailey). Alan Alda is good as the lawyer, Alan Burnside, who Rachel's newspaper retains. Schwimmer is also good as the callow husband.

What seems to happen is that the public gives up on Rachel's cause. This is due, says Burnside at one point in the film, to the public's disenchantment with the media in general, an outcome Miller's work serves to hasten.

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