The political thriller genre meets the crusading journalist genre in writer-director Rod Lurie's "Nothing But the Truth," and neither scores a knockout. Kate Beckinsale plays Rachel Armstrong, a Washington newspaper investigative reporter who uncovers the identity of a covert CIA agent (Vera Farmiga) who has incurred the wrath of the White House. Bearing down on Rachel is a special government prosecutor (Matt Dillon), who puts the screws to her in a failed attempt to make her reveal her source. Even after doing hard time in prison, which provides Lurie with ample opportunities for women-behind-bars histrionics, Rachel refuses to budge.
If all this sounds familiar, that's because aspects of the plot mirror incidents in the career of former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, jailed for contempt of court in July 2005 for refusing to testify before a grand jury in connection with an investigation regarding a leak involving the identification of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent.
Lurie takes a relatively evenhanded approach to Rachel. She's a first-class reporter but also icily ambitious, and she sacrifices her personal safety, her marriage, and her relationship to her young son, to defend a principle that, in context, is murky. (Lurie gives some of his best lines to the government prosecutor.)
All this plays out in brisk fashion, and the actors, who also include Alan Alda as Rachel's venerable lawyer, mostly seem to be having a high old time. Throughout it all, however, I couldn't escape the feeling that this movie belonged on television instead. It has the immediacy, but also the shallowness, of an extended TV episode. Talking heads proliferate and pontificate. Grade: B. (Rated R for language, some sexual material, and a scene of violence.)