#51 / 365 – ‘Fair Game’ – 108 mins
Cinema Challenge #23 / 115
A covert officer in the CIA’s counter-proliferation department, Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) discovers that, contrary to the belief of many in the U.S. government, Iraq has no active nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, Valerie’s Foreign Service diplomat husband Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn) is sent to Africa (2003) to investigate rumours of possible sales of enriched uranium to Iraq. Finding no such deals, Joe writes an article for New York Times outlining his conclusions, igniting a firestorm of controversy. Soon Valerie’s top-secret identity is leaked to high-profile Washington journalists. With her cover blown and her overseas contacts left vulnerable, Valerie is pushed to the breaking point as her career and private life collapse. After 18 years serving the government, Valerie – a mother, a wife and a field officer with an impeccable record – now struggles to save her reputation, her career and her marriage.
Based on the true events of former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson Fair Game is essentially three films in one – How Plame’s deals with her life when she is outed as an agent by her own government, the strain on her marriage when they fight back, and then story of George W. Bush administration v Saddam Hussein’s WMDs, where it paints an unflattering but justified picture of those controversial events we all know of from 2003.
Naomi Watts gives a competent performance here, in the truly complex role of Plame and bears a striking resemblance to the real life Plame, but it is Penn who is magnificent as the impassioned, self-righteous husband who seeks out the truth on every level and this is a very typical role of his choosing.
Combining feature-film drama with real news footage from the time, Doug Liman (‘The Bourne Identity’) provides solid direction with pace, there are a couple of sub-plots involving Plame’s on-going cases that should have been developed more. Overall Fair Game is far from perfect but is an absorbing mix of intelligent political thriller and relationship drama.