Fair Game: movie review
The political thriller 'Fair Game' serves up righteous outrage at the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Is the time right for a movie about the 2003 Valerie Plame–Joseph Wilson smack down? So many Washington scandals have transpired since then that "Fair Game," based on memoirs by both Plame and Wilson, and starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, might seem like old news.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
I suppose this is true if timeliness is gauged in direct proportion to our collective near-amnesia of news going back more than a few years (months? days?). But the Wilsons' ordeal should not be relegated to the scrapheap of scandals past, if only because the past, to paraphrase something William Faulkner once said, isn't even past.
This is not to say that "Fair Game," directed by Doug Liman and written by the brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, is an outstanding piece of political moviemaking. Preachy, sketchy, disjunctive, and with a blistery, solarized sheen that makes it look microwaved rather than photographed, "Fair Game" is a movie that for the most part trades on the Wilsons' notoriety instead of delving into the heart of it.
Plame was a veteran CIA officer whose cover was blown in 2003 by the conservative columnist Robert Novak after her ambassador husband, Wilson, who had been sent by the CIA to Niger to investigate a possible nuclear weapons link to Saddam Hussein, responded to distorted misinformation in the Bush administration's rapid ramp up to war with an op-ed piece in The New York Times titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa."
Wilson had been the last American diplomat in Iraq when bombing commenced under George H.W. Bush, who subsequently called him "a true American hero." The second President Bush took a far dimmer view of Wilson, who was smeared as a headline-grabbing turncoat. Plame was mischaracterized as a bit player in the CIA. In fact, as "Fair Game" makes clear, she was much more than that. The leaks that led to her outing very likely put many of her covert contacts in mortal danger. (The leaks eventually resulted in the conviction of Dick Cheney's chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby – well played in the film by David Andrews – on charges of obstruction of justice.)