Review: Fair Game

Posted: November 5, 2010 in Film Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Naomi Watts and Sean Penn in Fair GameNext year will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which eventually led to the deployment of American soldiers in Iraq. Of course, as everyone is well aware of, the main reason for the invasion was to disarm Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction.” When none were found, many people questioned how the government could make such a serious error – wasn’t there intelligence to backup their claims? Fair Game tells the true story of how this conclusion was made and how the truth ruined a woman’s life and nearly broke up her marriage.

As a covert officer in the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division, Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) leads an investigation into the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Valerie’s husband, diplomat Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), is drawn into the investigation to substantiate an alleged sale of enriched uranium from Niger. But when the administration ignores his findings and uses the issue to support the call to war, Joe writes a New York Times editorial outlining his conclusions and ignites a firestorm of controversy.

This film is incredibly well constructed. The first act clearly sets up the remainder of the movie as we watch Valerie in the field. It shows she plays an integral role in several operations that involve forcing sources to cooperate and gaining vital information regarding Iraq’s weapons’ programs. When she is betrayed by someone in the administration, her career is belittled by the agency to which she devoted her life as they attempt to distance themselves from her. Furthermore, it’s estimated up to 70 of her contacts in various countries were killed or disappeared after her secret was revealed.

Joe’s persistence is simultaneously understandable and perplexing. It was surely important the world know the truth about the government’s misuse of information; but despite his wife’s protests and the slow destruction of their marriage, he pushes harder – the truth above everything else.

Not only is the film based on a true story, but all the key players’ names remain unchanged; this includes the naming of Dick Cheney and his aide, Scooter Libby, as the main instigators. The screenplay was inspired by Plame’s book, also titled Fair Game, and Wilson’s book, The Politics of Truth; therefore, it presents their version of events. As a result, this film is probably much more enjoyable when you enter the theatre already believing their side of the story.

Penn and Watts are brilliant. This political stand for truth and against ignorance appears quite natural for Penn. Joe’s need to “correct” friends at dinner parties is unwavering and Penn has never looked more determined. Watts is a rock as Valerie. In emotional situations, she maintains composure just like one would expect a trained agent to do, which makes her eventual, singular breakdown that much more significant.

Fair Game is an intense political thriller that is well composed and casted, but made even more striking by its historical significance and the truths presented.

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