TMG Scale 8.0
Staring Matt Dillon, Alan Alda, David Schwimer, Kate Beckinsale

This one was a box office sleeper in 2008.  TMG found it on my Netflix cross reference and decided to give it a try.  It was well worth it.

This film is loosely based upon the real life story of Valerie Plame. Plame was a CIA operations officer and the wife of former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson. In 2003, Washington Post  journalist Robert Novak revealed Plame as a CIA operative based upon a tip from then Presidential aide Scooter Libby. Libby had claimed Vice President Dick Cheney had authorized the “leak.” Motives of revenge against Plame’s husband (due to criticism of the Bush Administration) were cited. Conistitutional drama ensued because Novak would not reveal Libby as the source. The First Amendment and right of the press to protect sources was put at odds with National Security and  the treasonable offense of outing CIA spies.

Now you know the basic movie. But Director and writer Rod Lurie took it a step further. Kate Beckinsale plays  reporter Rachel Armstrong. She chooses over a year in jail for contempt (and great abuse)  rather than revealing her source. (Real life Novak was pressured but never jailed). Her marriage to husband (played by Schwimmer) fails and she nearly buckles.  Even famed attorney (played by Aland Alda) is stymied by the politics and legal pressure to make her talk. Why would she endure so much suffering just to protect a political operative? A source who by all accounts will,  and does eventually,  fess up? We learn at the end the true source may have been well worth protecting.  We are way off the actual  Valerie Plame story by now, but the point being made by Lurie is both stunning and provocative. TMG refuses to ruin it for you.

Matt Dillon is a personal hero of TMG and one of the most underrated and undervalued actors of our time. Dillon deserves the best roles in Hollywood and his performance here shows you why. He plays the dauntless and resolute federal prosecutor who seems nearly lacking in any human concern in the face of protecting national security.  Like the reporter protecting her sources, he clearly is equally committed to his belief in country to save the lives of CIA operatives.  Who is right?

TMG thinks witer Lurie is wise not to answer the question but merely raise it.  Good films raise important questions without shoving a political view down your throat. [Go rent Little Children (2006) with Kate Winslet about the issue of surburban sexual offenders and see what I mean.] On balance, TMG sides with the First Amendment. The United States can only survive with a demanding and vicsiously inquisitive free press. It hurts sometimes, but when the press is in bed with the powers to be (and perhaps we are suffering such consequences in the 2008-2010 period), the damage is so much worse. I am betting in real life, Matt Dillon agrees.