Fair Game Directed by: Doug Liman Cast: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, David Andrews, Ty Burrell, Sam Shepard Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: November 5, 2010
PLOT: Based on the books, "Fair Game" and "Politics of Truth" this tells the story of Valerie Plame (Watts), a CIA operative whose identity was revealed during America's decision to invade Iraq.
WHO'S IT FOR? Like good movies? That should be enough. Plus, we've all lived through the headlines of Plame's story, now is a chance to understand it even better.
EXPECTATIONS: The brilliance of me, Jeff Bayer, is that I have a very short-term memory. When I sat down to watch this film I only new Watts, Penn and Liman were involved. Based on the title Fair Game I assumed it was a drama/thriller. After a couple of minutes, I knew exactly what "based on a true story" I was about to see.
Naomi Watts as Valerie Plame: She owns the place. As a spy in the CIA, she's perfect. As an almost absent mother and wife ... well, she's really good at that as well. It's really amazing that we don't have many movies that truly showcase an actual spy. I found this fascinating. Think about it. Every dinner conversation, every night out, Valerie actually knows what is going on in the world. Her best scene comes when she's talking to her husband, explaining her early days of CIA training, and how she will never be broken. Watts gives her best performance in years. Score: 10
Sean Penn as Joseph Wilson: If Watts owns the place, Penn acts like he does or desperately wants to. Joseph is a house husband. He's also brilliant and does some work on the side for the government. For the most part though, this is a struggling man trying to find his place in the world while his wife is undercover overseas. Penn is able to balance being a blowhard and the smartest man in the room. At a dinner party, he's deadly when it finally comes time for him to give his opinion. Score: 9
David Andrews as Scooter Libby: How can you possibly hate a man named Scooter? Well, you get Andrews to play him, that's how. How has Andrews NOT been cast as a villain in a lead TV series? This guy is fantastic. He should be the next Michael Emerson ("Lost"). The question in Fair Game quickly becomes, "How did Scooter sidestep or bypass the intelligence coming from the CIA?" You get to see his convincing bravado in full action as he's interviewing agents about the possibility of Iraq being armed and dangerous. It's hard to argue. Score: 10
Rest of Cast: Valerie and Joseph do have a social life, and Phil from "Modern Family" is a part of it! David Denman from "The Office" also has a small role as a CIA agent. Many of the actors have a comedy background and this helps the story move along in an amusing fashion even though so much is at stake. Sam Shepard comes in for one good scene as Valerie's dad, doing what good dad's do best ... give quiet advice. Score: 8
TALKING: There is a huge amount of dry humor. A friend asks if Plame has lovers all over the world. When Joseph is egged on just enough he gives biting comments every social situation. Plus, shouting matches every couple has are perfectly showcased. Although these are about the White House, not the dishes. You also get to learn what PFU means, as well as a black eye (two shots of espresso and coffee). Score: 8
SIGHTS: Every time Fair Game is on location, you assume they are most definitely at that actual country. There is no reason to doubt it, though I am not yet a "world traveler." Liman's handheld style with quick movements is borrowing from his Bourne Identity days, and it works in this drama. The real life White House characters of Scooter and Karl Rove are cast very well. Score: 8
SOUNDS: Really, the only time the musical score comes into play is when Joseph, in full vigor, is giving a speech to a packed house. The increasing pace and sound is perfect for that moment. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: Sitting there and knowing the answers, knowing the truth, has to be an insanely difficult thing. Joseph tries and fails to bite his tongue at a dinner party. Valerie never breaks. It's a fantastic dynamic to an otherwise ordinary dinner with friends.
ENDING: Just in case you don't remember what Valerie does, the film ends with her stepping in front of Congress to finally give her version on events.
QUESTIONS: Why did everyone at the CIA distance themselves from Valerie? They were such a close-knit family. Clearly they were all teammates. I can understand the White House not wanting the CIA to have contact with Valerie, but they really put up a stone wall. Also, where is Bob Novak? I love hating that man, why didn't you let me do it in this film?
REWATCHABILITY: Yes, the performances from Watts and Penn are award worthy and I would easily watch this one again with my wife.
"Ripped from the headlines" always makes me nervous. With Watts, Penn and Liman in Fair Game, you can breath a sigh of relief.
During this time in our country the conversation was constantly being steered by the White House. The media followed and Fair Game does a great job of showing exactly how that can happen and who it affects. What we think is not the same as what we know. Many had hunches or were confused about why our country was so worried about Iraq. In this film, you get to see people who know the answer. They know there aren't any WMDs. It's fascinating to see how they deal with knowing this information and trying to keep some semblance of a life.
Green Zone tried to show us the military side of things with the Iraq War. It felt a little too much like they were constantly saying, "I told you so." Fair Game doesn't have that issue. At the core, this film always goes back to the relationship between Valerie and Joseph. This "based on a true story" delivers the lies our society was forced to gobble up, and two people who were "right" and right in the middle of it.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10