“Fair Game” is the newest political thriller to hit theaters, albeit slowly as it unfolds across the country, and it is a compelling piece of work made all the more frightening by the fact that the film is based on a true story and the filmmakers choose to use the real names of those purportedly involved. The film actually argues that George Bush’s cluelessness might have worked in his favor here in that he may not have known everything there was to know. Dick Cheney? Well let’s just say he probably won’t be buying a ticket to this movie anytime soon.
Based on the book by Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson that is based on the events that happened to them, “Fair Game” opens with CIA operative Plame (nicely played by Naomi Watts) out in the field. Due to her competence and job ability, she has many operatives all over the world working with her.
The film takes place not long after the events of 9/11 and then moves through a few years to when the country may have got a little more relaxed but our government never did. A load of aluminum tubing is being traced and operatives fear this tubing, created in Niger, is being sold to Iraq for the purpose of using uranium to create nuclear weapons. Plame is one of the few to question the situation which leads Plame’s superiors to suggest that Plame’s husband, newspaper writer Wilson (Sean Penn), who happens to be the ambassador to Niger (he even corrects the CIA on its pronunciation), travel to Niger and use his contacts to get into facilities where this could have happened and find anything out he can. Wilson agrees and travels there and reports back that a sale of that magnitude would have been virtually impossible.
Citing this fictional sale as our main reason, the United States went to war with Iraq. Basically we were there due to fraudulent reasons. Wilson’s report was ignored. Wilson wrote an article for the New York Times detailing his trip and his report. Soon after someone leaked information to a reporter that Wilson’s wife, Plame, was a CIA operative. Her name was printed thus blowing her cover. The CIA turned their back on her, her operatives started disappearing and that was only the beginning.
Director Doug (Go; The Bourne Identity) Liman knows his way around a good thriller without having to bog the audience down with details. He tells us just enough so we can follow things and then lets the stories unfold naturally. It helps that he is working with a true story (though I do wonder about some of the facts in Niger and a key character whose sister works for Plame). Is it totally accurate? I haven’t a clue. There has been so much finger pointing and he said/she said accusations that one must wonder. I fear that more of the film is truth than fiction simply because government has always been rumored to be filled with scandal, wrong doing and those that are less scrupulous.
Naomi Watts and Sean Penn are terrific actors doing good work here. These aren’t Oscar caliber roles and neither one overplays their part. Penn, especially, is effective in projecting his passionate desires that the truth be known. They project their plight quite believably no doubt because Plame and Wilson were nearby to offer their services as consultants.
It’s only later when you think about the movie how scary it all really is. The fact that thousands have died in a war that, while we knew was unjust, also appears to have been totally unnecessary. That some very powerful people covered up certain things to actually cause the war to happen makes me shiver.
When the film ended I was moved and found it a strong story well acted and directed. That night, as I tried to fall asleep, I marveled at how subtle the work of the sinister affects us all.
And that scared the hell out of me the most.