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Review: Fair Game

Fair Game
10.29.2010
8 10

PLOT: The true story of former CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) whose CIA agent status was leaked to the press by White House officials in order to discredit her Ambassador husband, Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn), who criticized the US Invasion of Iraq after the results of a fact-finding mission he was sent on were ignored to justify the war.

REVIEW : FAIR GAME is a good example of the type of film that’s all too rare these days- the adult thriller. Back in the seventies, a movie like FAIR GAME wouldn’t have been all that exceptional compared to similarly themed paranoia classics like ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, THE PARALLAX VIEW, and THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR. Sure, we get films like THE GREEN ZONE which are also political, but in the case of that film, it was awkwardly shoehorned with a couple of action scenes to make it more palatable to the mainstream.


There’s no pyrotechnics in FAIR GAME, but it’s nonetheless a thrilling piece of entertainment, made all the more incredible by the fact that it’s all true. I’m no expert on the Plame affair, but the idea of The White House knowingly leaking the identity of a deep cover CIA agent (in the middle of several life and death campaigns as suggested by the film) to discredit a political opponent is as shocking as anything you’d see in THE BOURNE IDENTITY.

I suppose it’s fitting then that Doug Liman would be the one to bring the Palme affair to the big screen, as he also directed THE BOURNE IDENTITY, before passing the reins to Paul Greengrass for the sequels. In many ways, FAIR GAME plays out a lot like a BOURNE film, with it carrying the same intensity those movies possessed, coupled with a very-BOURNE –like score by series composer John Powell. The only thing it doesn’t have is the bursts of bone-crunching action, but the story’s so involving you won’t miss them.

Liman really does a great job, with this easily being his best film since BOURNE IDENTITY, and a solid return to form after JUMPER. It helps that he has two incredible actors in the lead roles. Naomi Watts gets one of the best roles of her career as Plame (to whom she bears a striking resemblance). She does a wonderful job carrying the film, and imbues Plame with enough heart to make you care about the character. She really manages to strike a balance between playing a caring wife and mother as shown in the scenes at home, and a no-nonsense CIA agent, totally in her element running assets in The Middle East, and shaking down arms dealers, like in the great opening scene.


As the outspoken Wilson, we get the similarly outspoken Sean Penn, and he fits the role like a glove. You could say that Wilson’s not much of a stretch for Penn, as he’s totally cast to type here, but that doesn’t change his effectiveness. He also gives Wilson a bit of an ego to that his character doesn’t come across as a straightforward do-gooder, although it’s clear that at the end of the day, Wilson’s intentions were noble. He also portrays the anxiety of someone whose spouse is away on life and death missions beautifully, and it’s clear that of the two, Plame’s the stoic one.

Rounding out the cast, we get lots of top-notch character actors, like Sam Sheppard as Plame’s father, and the great Bruce McGill as the director of the CIA.

I also appreciated the fact that at 100 minutes, FAIR GAME is exceedingly well paced, and ends before it has the chance to overstay its welcome, which is always a threat in films like this (GREEN ZONE was guilty of this). Overall it’s a finely crafted political thriller that will please fans of similarly smart thrillers. If you enjoy films like SYRIANNA, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK, MICHAEL CLAYTON, and the BOURNE series, then FAIR GAME is the film for you.

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Extra Tidbit: For another, fictionalized take on the Plame affair, check out the unfairly obscure NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, featuring terrific performances from Kate Beckinsale, and Vera Farmiga.
Source: JoBlo.com

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