Picks and Pans Review: Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within
Time was when "spy" and "thriller" naturally went together. But this absorbing espionage drama tells a true story with no thrills or James Bondian glamor. Only greed and the banality of evil.
The subject is Aldrich Ames (Timothy Hutton), a CIA officer who sold agency secrets to Moscow for more than $2.5 million between 1985 and his arrest in 1994. Called the most damaging betrayer in CIA history, Ames hardly comes across as a brilliant cloak-and-dagger artist. He gets drunk and careless. He spends his ill-gotten gain so freely that you'll think the CIA must be blind not to notice. He's occasionally nervous but more often complacent. Hutton, 38, looks young for the part (Ames, now in prison, is 57), but he gives a credible portrayal of a man who seems less a traitor than a bureaucrat with a lucrative sideline.
The script can be faulted for leaving out details and rearranging chronology. The role of Ames's wife is underwritten, though Elizabeth Peña does her best with the character, and Joan Plowright plays it a bit too cute as the CIA researcher who fingers Ames as a mole for the KGB. But it's worth seeing this film and staying tuned at 9:40 for an interview with Ames, followed at 10 by The Real CIA, a balanced, hour-long look at agency history with Tim Weiner of The New York Times.
Bottom Line: Keep an eye on this spy