Fair Game (2010)

Posted: November 26, 2011 in Drama

Valerie Plame (Naomi  Watts is a covert CIA analyst, whose specialty is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  She is happily working in Kuala Lampur, when the Bush administration sees a mounting threat of WMD in Iraq.  Someone at the State Department asks Valerie to ask her husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) to go to Niger to check a claim about Iraq buying 500 tons of yellowcake uranium from Niger.  Wilson finds no evidence to substantiate the Niger story, and tells that to the State Department.  The Bush administration ignores Wilson’s findings, puts the Niger reference in the State of the Union Address in 2003, and starts a ground invasion of Iraq.  Wilson is so infuriated by the false intelligence presented as one of the central reasons for war, that he writes an op-ed discrediting the yellowcake allegation on July 6th 2003, a little more than a week after the op-ed, Valerie Plame is outed as a CIA agent by columnist Bob Novak.  Who told Novak Plame’s true identity?  And what happened to those people?

I won’t get into the politics of this movie, because liberals will adore it, and conservatives will hate it and its star Sean Penn, because of his politics.  I will try to review the movie, apart from the politics if that is possible.  The story seems heavy-handed, it definitely has a point of view and takes every opportunity to tell viewers what it is.  The movie also takes itself way, way too seriously, I was happy to see a few funny moments early on, but then the mood goes dark, and stays that way.  War is serious business, I get it, but this movie clubs people over the head with that attitude and that gets tiring after almost two hours. Even Penn, whose acting skills are admirable, is hamstrung by the writing in this movie.  Penn has a one note character to play here, he’s in full hero mode, fighting The Man, and even when there is conflict, the strain on Wilson’s marriage caused by the outing, Penn can’t seem to modulate his character’s voice, and the movie turns into a screamfest.  Ugh.  Watts fares a little better, she succeeds in balancing humor in her character (rolling her eyes at her husband at dinner parties) and the gravity of being caught in the middle of an international nightmare. Watts makes the viewer feel the pain of having herself and her family threatened by political enemies, without making her pain seem gratuitous.  But the movie suffers from hitting the same notes over and over, and offering no shades of grey to any character, just black and white.

Fair Game.  Neither Fair or a Game.

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