Fair Game

Director: Doug Liman

Starring: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Ty Burrell, Sam Shepard, Khaled El Nabawy

III (2/5)

Fair Game is based on the true story of C.I.A undercover operative Valerie Plume (Naomi Watts), whose identity was leaked to the media by the Bush administration in 2003.

This was in retaliation for her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson’s (Sean Penn), exposure of the White House claims that yellowcake uranium (used to make weapons of mass destruction) was being sold to Iraq from Africa were entirely false and unfounded. This comes as George W. Bush publishes his memoirs, Decision Points – in which he explains why he went to war.

From the director of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, it portrays the corruption of the US government in the lead up to and justification for the Iraq war, how the Bush administration was selective of the information they received from analysts in the C.I.A. It also explores the politics of family and marriage, under the intense pressure the situation puts on the couple and their family, as a contrast to the high politics and emotionless, be-suited government workers that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bourne film.

Naomi Watts is effective as Plume, portrayed as a strong, career driven woman, and to be honest the more intelligent and level headed partner. She is the perfect C.I.A agent, secretive and concealing, whilst her husband Joe Wilson, self righteous idealist fuelled by outrage at the White House on a personal and political level is a difficult character played  well by Sean Penn. The portrayal of their marriage is particularly personal and and also how the ego and self righteousness of Wilson nearly destroys them, though its difficult not to be reminded of the truly abominable Mr. and Mrs. Smith, particularly during their in-house confrontations.

It would be generous to call Fair Game a good film. There have been too many similar films made in the past decade for it to retain any shock factor. The fact that the Iraq war is still relatively recent in the minds of the audience works in its favour, though the revelation that the U.S government were a bunch of lying, corrupt, self serving capitalists, using the façade of humanitarianism and protectionism to wage war on a poverty stricken Middle Eastern country aren’t exactly new.

On the other hand, it is a bold picture of the events leading up the Iraq war,  in that it insists that the White House, and in particular Dick Cheney dogmatically pursued war in the Middle East and that the U.S knowingly went to war on falsified claims. It has received largely positive feedback from reviewers (clearly liberal, Democrat-voting, American reviewers) and it is an effective human drama against a tense political backdrop, unique in its candid portrayal of real life events, but I wouldn’t recommend it, it is unmemorable and will quickly fade into obscurity.

By Clare Burnett

The trailer to Fair Game