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Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within


Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within

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Timothy Hutton has long been on a professional losing streak, contributing embarrassingly over-the-top performances to such uninspired recent fare as Money Kings, The General's Daughter, and Playing God. He's also supposedly dating Angelina Jolie, but professionally, he's only a few bad movies away from Judge Reinhold territory. All of which makes his excellent lead performance in the fact-based made-for-cable drama Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within such a pleasant surprise. Ames is, as many will recall, one of the most notorious spies in the history of the U.S. A mild-mannered, unimpressive-looking middle manager with a droll sense of humor and a love of Shakespeare, Ames did irreparable damage to the CIA during the '80s and early '90s, blowing the covers of dozens of spies and collecting more than $2.5 million for his services in the process. Strangely, however, Ames himself was a terrible spy, prone to problem drinking and living ridiculously above his means. When the Ames story broke, the public was primarily disgusted by Ames' treachery, but equally angered at the CIA for not being the least bit suspicious that Ames was living a movie-star lifestyle on a government bureaucrat's salary. Masterfully directed by veteran filmmaker John Mackenzie (The Long Good Friday), Aldrich Ames is a slow-moving, appropriately quiet character study that makes a convincing argument: that Ames' crimes were motivated less by ideology than by the timid, bullied bureaucrat's heartfelt belief that the Russians were better able to appreciate his droll sense of humor and love of fine arts. Aldrich Ames isn't a perfect film—it's burdened by unnecessary voice-over narration, and a number of intriguing supporting characters are given short shrift—but for anyone wondering how a meek Ned Flanders of a man almost helped bring down the CIA, Aldrich Ames is essential.