Monday, April 18, 2011

Fair Game is Close to the Top of its Game

Fair Game (3 out of 5 stars)

Directed by: Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Go, Swingers)
Written by: Jez Butterworth, John Butterworth
Starring: Naomi Watts and Sean Penn

No, this is not the crappy 1995 film with Cindy Crawford and Billy Baldwin, where we get to see a two obligatory breast shots.This film chronicles the story of husband and wife Valerie Plame (Watts) and Joe Wilson (Penn) and their battle with both the CIA and the Bush administration.  Plame works for the CIA as a covert operative who identity is revealed because her husband reveals after a trip to Niger that Saddam Hussein does not have weapon's of mass destruction (WMDs).  Within the White House Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff leaked to information that Plame was a cover agent with the CIA, and the both Plame and Wilson became a target for countless attacks.

The film uses the procedural well, but sometimes loses the emotional depth of the story lines that surround the revelation of Plame's status.  In the film Plame was working to bring a family home from Iraq who had aided in one of her investigations, but as she loses ability you soon realize the family has lost hope in being saved.  Watts appears stiff and wooden sometimes as opposed to being a tough as nails CIA agent.; she is best when she lets her acting become natural.  Watts scenes are best when she deals with her family and the implications of her exposure.  Penn playing a liberal mouthpiece also did not come across so much as acting, but Sean Penn being Sean Penn.  Although Penn brings to life the real Joe Wilson well.

Liman does however do a good job of weaving a tale, that inter splices news reels and and this couple's story.  The emotional depth comes with the rage at the Bush administration for allowing someone in your administration to force a family to deal with mass scrutiny.  Liman makes this more than a procedural and when you watch Watts and Penn deal with the emotional heft on a family level that's when this political becomes so much more.

My Recommendation: Good solid filmmaking, go out and rent it

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