“Fair Game” Movie Review

     I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Some of the best movies you will see are those which are smart, well written, well acted, and true.  While I’m sure Doug Liman’s “Fair Game” takes a few liberties to fill in some of the blanks, you’ll likely be transported back to 2003 and remember when this incident became big news.  In what is sure to be an awards contender, Fair Game is an excellent political thriller that will leave you asking a lot of questions about how and why the United States entered into a war with Iraq.

     Naomi Watts plays real life CIA Agent Valerie Plame in a role sure to get her some notice in the upcoming awards season.  Aside from her striking resemblance to the real life character, Watts is tasked with acting alongside Sean Penn, who plays her husband Joe Wilson.  Both actors play off each other incredibly well and each hold their own during important scenes in the film. 

     Plame is an undercover CIA operative, involved in a number of high stakes anti terrorism efforts around the globe.  Wilson is a former U.S. Ambassador and has expertise in various African and Middle Eastern countries.  It should be noted that “former” means under a previous administration and not the current one.  Because of his expertise and contacts, he is sent to Niger to determine if a sale of “yellow cake” Uranium was made to a Iraq for the purpose of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.  Wilson soon discovers this was not the case and returns to tell the  CIA this did not occur.  Not long after Wilson returns from Niger, President Bush delivers his 2003 State of the Union Address and states as justification for going to war with Iraq that Iraq did indeed make that purchase from Niger. 

     Wilson knows this isn’t true and decides to write a piece for the New York Times that discredits the intelligence President Bush spoke of.  This article sets off a chain of events where it is alleged the Bush White House discredited Wilson by outing his wife in the media as a covert agent.  This turns Wilson and Plame’s lives inside out and instantly begins to ruin their marriage.  All of Plame’s ongoing operations are immediately ceased, which includes an operation where several Iraqi scientists were to be rescued from Baghdad before it was learned they were informers for the U.S.. Of course, each of these scientists turn up dead or missing and with promises broken, Plame’s credibility takes a dive. 

     The film brings up several interesting points.  As this mess unfolds, several characters are portrayed as being afraid of the White House and their power.  While Bush is not directly condemned in the film, Vice President Cheney and his staff are, as is Bush political consultant Karl Rove.  They are presented as the masterminds behind the plot to discredit Wilson and Plame and for a year it worked.  At a certain point Cheney’s Chief of Staff takes the fall, but their plan succeeds because today, the average person would not look back at this story as a means to explain why we were lied to about the reasons for going to war with Iraq.

     The choices the two main characters must make are quite intriguing as well.  On one hand, you have Wilson who writes the NY Times piece that straight up discredits what the President of the United States just said to a national TV audience as the reason for going to war.  In doing so, Wilson causes the inevitable backlash aimed at his wife and the repercussions almost cause him to lose his marriage and his wife loses her career.  At the same time, he is in possession of important information that could prevent a war and the loss of life.  That is a tough decision to make and a tough position to be in.  Does he withhold the information and allow the U.S. to go to war under false pretense?  Does he realize he is calling the President a lier?  I would imagine he never considered that our own government would out one of their own in order to discredit her and protect their own interests.  Good people would never do that, right?

     In similar fashion to a good documentary, Fair Game might make you angry, depending on what side you cheer for.  I think by now, most people realize the reasons we went to war with Iraq were not about WMDs.  In the 7 years of aftermath, it seems as though all signs point to the fact our intelligence agencies were saying one thing, but the White House was saying another.  Regardless of what you believe, Fair Game is a powerful film that deserves your attention, and at minimum, you’ll get to see two of the best acting performances this year.  GRADE: A-