REVIEW: Fair Game

8 11 2010

It’s really a shame that we live in such a polarize political climate that we rush to affiliate any movie about current events with a political ideology.  Because “Fair Game” tells the story of a woman and her husband who did their jobs and were led to be skeptical of the Bush administration based on their information, it has been labeled a liberal movie.

Yet what makes “Fair Game” one of the best movies I’ve seen this year is the fact that it is a politically conscious movie but not necessarily politically charged.  It’s a movie that reminds us that the truth has no political affiliation, and it reaffirms the very American responsibility to stand up and voice our discontent when we see the government failing in its duties.  Naomi Watt’s Valerie Plame Wilson does this in spite of one of the worst political climates for dissent in our history, and it’s a rousing profile in courage that will reinforce your sense of patriotic duty.

How is it possible for the story of a woman who dared to question the authority and logic of President George W. Bush to be patriotic?  At first glance, the movie seems to be painting an incredibly cynical and unflattering portrait of the government.  Without remorse, they ruin Plame’s career by outing her as a covert CIA agent.  Under the leadership of Scooter Libby, the office of the Vice-President takes steps to discredit her and leave her without support to face the most powerful institution in the country.

While there’s hardly a doubt that director Doug Liman and the writing team are highly critical of Bush’s invasion under pretense, “Fair Game” is not another voice in the cinematic chorus denouncing the War in Iraq.  This is a story about the triumph of justice and truth over whatever obstacle the government might put in place to impede them.  Plame is the crusader for all American values that we claim to have but are often put aside for personal or national gain.

In 2001, someone comes before her with the evidence that President Bush took us to war with, and she applies reason and logic to deduce that it did not signal the presence of a modern nuclear program in Iraq.  To make sure, she sends her husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), to check out the supposed deal in Niger as he was once an ambassador there.  Even though Wilson finds nothing to support the claim that the aluminum tubes in question could not have been part of a deal for materials to construct a nuclear weapon, the administration ignores his take and uses it to justify war in Iraq.  And we all know what happens from here …

After a few months with no success finding any WMDs, Wilson grows so disillusioned that he writes a notorious substantiated editorial piece in The New York Times denouncing the invasion.  As revenge for lashing out against the government, the White House digs for dirt on Wilson and winds up with the information that his wife is a CIA agent.

From there, Watts’ performance takes off to soaring heights as a career of doing what she thought was right is destroyed in front of her eyes.  She is left out in the cold by the CIA to face what one deputy called “the most powerful presidency in American history,” and Plame is left to debate whether to fight for good or to sit back and accept that wrong can hold the power over her.  Watts nails the strength of her character with such mettlesome command that even when the movie takes its eye off the prize for a brief moment, she remains focused and in complete control.  Penn is a perfect counterpoint for her playing the unashamed and undaunted crusader for total justice, and his boldness causes quite a bit of marital friction that is brilliantly played by the two actors.

Intermittently scattered throughout “Fair Game” are dinner scenes where Plame and Wilson sit back and put on a clueless face as their jingoistic acquaintances offer their take on developments in the Middle East, buying into whatever interpretation the government gives them.  Wilson often openly attacks their prejudiced remarks, and it’s not hard to assume that he is the voice of the filmmakers in these scenes.  While this could be interpreted as a blatant attack on conservatives who followed Bush in the Iraq era, I take it as more of a challenge than a diatribe.  Now that this chapter in American history has been closed, the movie invites us to take a look back at why we believed what we believed.  Armed with a contemplative story on what responsibility means in the 21st century, we can gain some fascinating insight into our own minds and our role in the government.  A



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