It’s a pleasure watching an intelligent adult film. It’s even better to see one that treats a difficult subject with great clarity despite underlying moral and legal ambiguities. Most of all, it’s great to see such a film with a great cast working from a great script.
I’m sure that partisans surrounding both sides of the Valerie Plame case will find something to offend them in this fictioned-up film, either because of the main character’s refusal to buckle despite being imprisoned by the Special Prosecutor for refusing to name names, or because the main character, a reporter, gives up her family to protect her sources. National security versus journalistic confidentiality are at play here. There’s no clear winner.
Certainly not the reporter, as played splendidly by Kate Beckinsale, nor the outed CIA agent, played fiercely by Vera Farmiga. These two “soccer moms” from suburban Washington DC battle it out directly and via their surrogates as prosecutor Matt Dillon turns the thumbscrews on Beckinsale with senior attorney Alan Alda trying valiantly to defend Beckinsale.
I think it will be difficult to watch this movie without taking sides, irrespective of how you feel about the Iraq war run-up or the Plame case. You will be reminded that the US Federal Government can legally throw people in prison for long lengths of time to make them talk, and you will also see how the eventual disappearance of major newspapers could have a devastating effect on the public’s ability to defend itself against a government that oversteps its bounds.
My only complaint about this film is that it’s supposed to take place in and around Washington DC but it was obviously filmed elsewhere. I live in Alexandria Virginia just down the river from DC and I never had a sense that the physical details of buildings, streets, and neighborhoods as shown were at all accurate. That may not seem like a lot but it’s very different from Oliver Hirschbiegel’s THE INVASION, parts of which definitely were shot around here. But that won’t detract from the dramatic impact for those outside the area.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis D. McDonald