Rating: 4 stars out of 5
How much you enjoy a movie like Fair Game is going to vary heavily according to your personal political leanings. Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and scribes Jez & John-Henry Butterworth certainly make no bones about where their sympathies lie and that can be either empowering or irritating.
To half of the population, this quasi-fictional account the Plame scandal gives shape to their righteous fury over the injustices that occurred while the other half will inevitably feel like this is all nothing more than sanctimonious op-ed preaching.
In its defence Fair Game is indeed based upon both its protagonists’ published memoirs – Joseph Wilson’s ‘The Politics of Truth’ and Valerie Plame’s ‘Fair Game.’ So of course the story will frame things from their point-of-view as alleged victims of a government-led smear campaign.
When you strip away its obvious partiality, this amalgamated adaptation of those two books is simply a well-told narrative about shady backroom governing and the fragile nature of a modern marriage. Solidly acted and tautly filmed, Fair Game is one hell of a movie regardless of politics.
For those who somehow missed Plame-gate, here are the vital stats of one of the most sensational instances of abuse of power in American history. Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) was a real-life undercover CIA agent specializing in covert anti-proliferation missions overseas. Her husband Joseph Wilson is an ex-diplomat whose intellectual swagger is only matched by the size of his temper.
Prone to public outbursts, its immediately established that Joseph is the antithesis of his wife, a woman trained to value subtlety and secrecy. Nevertheless when reports that Saddam Hussein’s regime had acquired vast amounts of ‘yellowcake’ uranium from Niger, the brash Wilson is sent by the CIA to conduct an independent investigation on the recommendation of his wife.
Wilson’s familiarity with both countries and its leadership (he served as ambassador to Niger and Iraq for lengthy spells) made him an expert they could rely on. His findings conclude that no deal between and Saddam and Niger ever took place. However the report is skewed by the Office of the Vice-President in order to lay a pretext for a war Bush was already intent on having.
To set the record straight, the hot-headed Wilson penned a feature in The New York Times to openly rebut the White House’s assertions. This of course ruffles a few feathers leading to Cheney puppet ‘Scooter’ Libby (played with extra slime by David Andrews) to retaliate by blowing Plame’s CIA cover, thereby ruining both husband and wife’s careers and reputations.
A bitter back and forth ensued in the media with Bush administration reps embarking on a savage character assassination escapade while an enraged Wilson fired back as best as he could, a crusading David against a goliath machine. This very public mudslinging rampage places incredible strain on Wilson’s marriage, nearly leading to its dissolution.
What’s most impressive about Fair Game is its ability to parallel the larger story of a governmental cover-up with Valerie’s and Joseph’s personal lives. Valerie is close-mouthed and cagy due to her alternately misguided and admirable loyalty while Wilson is one who narrow-mindedly believes that the truth trumps all and is willing to put his wife through hell in service of justice.
In light of the recent Wikileaks debacle, this microcosmic debate on secrecy versus transparency is a timely one and extremely apt. The film embellishes a tad (Valerie’s Iraqi contacts are fictional) and leaves out a bunch of important details (Judith Miller isn’t even mentioned) but all in all, it’s a well-made political thriller that is suspenseful and manages to push all the right buttons, even if the content is subjective and its ending too neatly optimistic.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini is 24-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.