Starring: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, David Andrews
Directed by: Doug Liman (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”)
Written by: Jez Butterworth (“The Last Legion”) and John-Henry Butterworth (debut)
Moviegoers on the more conservative side of the aisle might snicker when they hear others call “Fair Game” a fact-based political controversy about former CIA operative Valerie Plame, the internal leak ending her career in the agency, and the grand jury investigation that followed, but the film is compelling, thought-provoking cinema nonetheless.
For those who believe Plame’s memoir “Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House,” from which the screenplay is adapted (along with her husband Joe’s book “The Politics of Truth”), “Fair Game” just might a maddening experience when you piece the narrative together.
“Fair Game,” directed by Doug Liman (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”), tells the story of Plame, whose identity as a member of the CIA is printed in a 2003 article of the Washington Post. Added to this disclosure of top secret information is the supposed reason behind it. Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), who was sent to Africa to investigate a possible nuclear weapons deal between Niger and Iraq but found no evidence of such, wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times degrading the George W. Bush Administration for invading Iraq and using the intelligence he gathered (in this case proved false) on his trip as a component of the motive for the attack.
Again, “Fair Game” is from one point of view, so depending on your politics (and depending if you judge a film based on those politics) the film might feel as fictional as a fairytale. Leave the politics off the table, however, and you’ll find an intelligent, well-written and sometimes heavy-handed account of the events that may or may not have taken place.
Aside from what went on inside the White House, “Fair Game” also examines the personal life of Plame and Wilson as their marriage is tested and professional careers are dragged through the mud during the ordeal. These elements of the film give a nice balance between the ugliness of the political world and what a controversy like this can actually do to a family.