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Monday, November 15, 2010

Penn and Watts Have a Good, Fair Game


Fair Game = 4 out of 5 Stars
[Addressing an assembly of students]
Joe Wilson:  How many of you know the sixteen words in Bush’s State of the Union address that put us into war with Iraq? None of you?  How many of you know my wife’s name?
[All hands are raised]
Fair Game is both a drama centered on politics and a character study about the struggle of a marriage.  The story is based on true events, involving the Bush administration’s attempts to discredit an American ambassador by revealing his wife’s status as a covert CIA agent.  The film is very much skewed towards a certain audience, but for those interested in a film like this, it is very well made.  The direction and editing are solid enough to make note of, as the film constantly moves forward, while dealing with all of the information presented.  Naomi Watts and Sean Penn star in the lead roles, and both give very good performances.  The film deals with events that only happened a few years before this film was produced, so it does feel a bit close, but those interested can get an interesting look at this story.

Watts stars Valerie Plame, a wife and mother, who actually works as a spy for the CIA.  This is unknown to all her friends and neighbors, who simply believe she is the boring office worker living in the shadow of her husband, Joe Wilson (Penn), who is a former US Ambassador.  Due to Joe’s experience, he is given a chance (with a small connection through his wife) to travel to Niger and look into some intelligence claims regarding the sale of uranium to Iraq.  Joe finds that no evidence of this was present, let alone possible.  Unfortunately, this intelligence was needed to be proven positive in order to provide further reasons for troops to be put into Iraq.  So despite Joe’s claims, the information is spoken of in Bush’s State of the Union address anyway.

Due to Joe both wanting the truth to be known and his stubborn nature, he writes an article in that is published in The New York Times, discrediting what has been presented and making the White House look bad.  In order to do damage control, a series of events takes place, headed by Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby (David Andrews), which leads to Valerie’s real name and CIA status being revealed by the press.  This puts her career, her family, and many already-in-motion operations she currently has setup in jeopardy.  The rest of the film pertains to the struggle Valerie and Joe must go through to deal with the fiasco that has been created, and the arguments these two get into, in an attempt to figure out what the right thing is to do.
Valerie Plame:  You have no idea what we can and cannot do.
The film was directed by Doug Liman, who has gone from his early days of directing Swingers, to heading up big action blockbusters such as The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  It is interesting to see him tackle a film like this, a much less active drama, as opposed to his previous pictures, but what certainly worked for me in this film is the way he has directed it, and how his crew has put it together.  Additionally, the film was shot on location in several different countries, adding a sense of authenticity to it. Now, a film like this, which is dialogue heavy throughout, could have had no pulse, presenting information very straight-forward, and definitely not helping to be accessible to everyone.  Fortunately, with Liman serving as his own cinematographer, he and his editors have put together a film that constantly moves and looks good.  Make no mistake, this is not quick-paced as something like ‘Bourne’, but for a political drama, I was very engaged throughout, without thinking I should have done research in order to keep up with what events were taking place.

Not being a very political person, let alone one that feels should offer up those sorts of opinions to this forum, I can say that I was happy with how the film presented its information.  The script was based on the novels written by the real Joe Wilson and Valerie Plume, The Politics of Truth and Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House.  Because of this, the entire film is told from their perspectives.  It does good enough work at holding its ground due to this, but the film never feels like it is preaching anything beyond fighting for what is right.
 
In addition to the film’s assembly, I found the casting to be a huge success for the film.  Watts and Penn both deliver great performances.  Say what you will about how close this may be to Penn’s actual agenda, but he does a great job as both this man with both the beliefs and knowledge available, along with the abilities to do what he can to fight.  Watts is equally good as well, holding together as the world she has worked hard to balance quickly teeters over the edge.  As much as the film functions to be about its political aspects, a special focus is also placed on the relationship that these two share, and how it is challenged in the wake of these events.  Fortunately, Penn and Watts are up to the challenge and perform nicely with each other, as they argue, bond, and care for their children.  The film is also packed with recognizable character actors.  I could name drop many actors for a whole new paragraph, but suffice it to say that the numerous people present help to give credence to this film (and Sam Shepard pops up in this film too; he’s always welcome).

Again, I honestly can’t say that everyone should go out and see this film; however, to those who are intrigued by the premise, I can certainly say it is well worth it.  This film is a well put together drama that features great talent both in front of and behind the camera.  It accomplishes what it needs to, and is quite informative about familiar and recent events that have transpired.
Diana:  Do you have a gun?  Have you killed people?
Valerie Plame:  …I can’t tell you anything.

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