Sunday, January 09, 2011

Fair Game

Year: 2010
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Michael Kelly, Bruce McGill, Noah Emmerich, David Andrews

Not to be confused with a similarly named film from 1995 starring Cindy Crawford and William Baldwin, Fair Game is based on a true story about Valerie Plame, a CIA operative who worked during the Bush administration.

Valerie is an agent with many contacts worldwide, who carries out assignments to expose terrorist cells, which has become more prominent since 9/11. She is married to Joe Wilson, a former ambassador who now runs his own business. They have two children.

One day, Valerie's superiors seek her help to 'send' Joe on an assignment to Africa, where it is suspected that Saddam Hussein is attempting to purchase materials to make nuclear weapons. Joe was chosen because he has experience and knowledge of the country Niger, where the supposed transaction is taking place. Once there, Joe does not discover any conclusive evidence that such a transaction took place.

However, the Vice President's staff, led by Scooter Libby, is not entirely convinced. By pulling some strings and manipulating statements, Libby makes it seem that Saddam truly is acquiring the materials, thus giving President Bush the excuse he needs to invade Iraq.

Joe is downright unhappy that the truth had been twisted, and proceeds to write an article for the media, stating that he had found no such evidence and that the White House had been misled. This sets off major repercussions as Libby leaks Valerie's identity as a CIA agent to the press. As a result, her employers suspend her and all her assignments, thus preventing her from keeping her word to anyone she had promised to help. The Wilsons' friends question them on Valerie's double life while the media follow them everywhere looking to either dig for more dirt or publicly scathe them. The entire fiasco puts a major toll on Valerie and Joe's marriage.

Doug Liman, who directed The Bourne Identity, once again brings his gritty style to the fore. There are no action sequences here, but his camerawork successfully makes the film look very real. The lack of bright colours throughout the movie also helped. I couldn't help but notice that Liman had filmed in Kuala Lumpur, so it was pretty cool seeing the Twin Towers at the start of the film.

Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, whom I last saw together in the phenomenal 21 Grams, have a great chemistry as Valerie and Joe respectively. Watts shows her toughness and vulnerability at the same time, despite not doing anything most CIA agents featured in Hollywood films do i.e. kicking ass. Penn compliments her perfectly as the man who fights for the truth, even if it costs him everything he loves.

Overall, Fair Game does not have the great storytelling skills it ought to have, for the first half of the film at least. But its two main leads do a great job in fleshing out their characters, thereby making it a fascinating view on the machinations of the White House. (3.5/5)

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