Review: Fair Game
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 thats all too rare these days- the adult thriller. Back in the seventies, a movie like FAIR GAME wouldnt have been all that exceptional compared to similarly themed paranoia classics like ALL THE PRESIDENTS 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.
Theres no pyrotechnics in FAIR GAME, but its nonetheless a thrilling piece of entertainment, made all the more incredible by the fact that its all true. Im 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 youd see in THE BOURNE IDENTITY.
I suppose its 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 doesnt have is the bursts of bone-crunching action, but the storys so involving you wont 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 Wilsons not much of a stretch for Penn, as hes totally cast to type here, but that doesnt change his effectiveness. He also gives Wilson a bit of an ego to that his character doesnt come across as a straightforward do-gooder, although its clear that at the end of the day, Wilsons intentions were noble. He also portrays the anxiety of someone whose spouse is away on life and death missions beautifully, and its clear that of the two, Plames the stoic one.
Rounding out the cast, we get lots of top-notch character actors, like Sam Sheppard as Plames 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 its 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.|