Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.

Rod Lurie’s earliest plots felt like wild, politically speculative fantasies only because they’ve not yet been introduced as acts in America’s governmental circus. His strongest civic drama, 2008’s Nothing But the Truth, bravely ran its hands along the jagged edges of subject matter Lurie instead ripped from headlines.

Inspired by the Judith Miller / Valerie Plame controversy, Truth blends John Grisham’s smart pulp and Aaron Sorkin’s whiplash banter with acting so impeccable even David Schwimmer’s weasel face serves him well.

Proving she can switch the lights on (or at least be guided to them), Kate Beckinsale gives a career-best performance as a reporter jailed for contempt of court after refusing to name her source on an expose outing a covert CIA agent (Vera Farmiga). (Knowing the power of fixed gazes on great acting, Lurie rests his camera on Beckinsale’s face while the cuffs are slapped on and situational gravity slams her gut.)

With this cast, Truth feels like sitting in on a star-studded, substantive communications-law seminar.

Beckinsale and Farmiga shine as professional, principled women struggling behind different sets of bars. Matt Dillon’s Southern-fried prosecutor aims to coast on legal precedent. Alan Alda’s defense attorney seems arrogantly materialistic but becomes an empathetic ally. Schwimmer is Beckinsale’s increasingly impatient husband. And often-meek Noah Wyle plays a bulldog libel lawyer practically foaming at the mouth.

As rumination on First Amendment attacks and governmental accountability, it’s flawless. Just disregard the eye-rolling “gotcha” twist and roll with the tony presentation of Truth’s principles and players.