- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Summit Entertainment
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
here has been an influx of post-9/11 movies over the last five years or so, but none have been as timely as Doug Liman's “Fair Game.” With President Obama midway through his first term and on the receiving end of some heavy criticism from his biggest detractors, the film serves as a nice reminder of just how screwed up the Bush administration really was. Whether or not you buy into the fictionalized true-life events will vary, but no matter what your political affiliation, “Fair Game” makes a compelling case thanks to a pair of solid performances from its two leads.
You don’t have to be a CNN junkie to know the basic facts about the botched search for WMDs in Iraq, but most people are unaware of the events leading up to the operation. In the months following 9/11, the White House received reports that Saddam Hussein was attempting to make nuclear weapons using aluminum rods supplied by Niger. In an attempt to confirm the intelligence report, the CIA sent former US ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) over to investigate, only for him to negate those reports upon his return, stating a variety of reasons as to why a transaction of that scale couldn’t have happened without someone knowing about it. Wilson’s opinion was ignored, however, and the U.S. went to war with Iraq on the basis that Hussein did have WMDs. But when Wilson wrote an article for the New York Times calling out the White House on its lies, the identity of his wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), was leaked by a government official as retaliation, blowing her cover and putting her contacts in the Middle East in jeopardy.
While anyone familiar with the story already knows how it ends, the fact that the film is based on separate books by Plame and Wilson makes “Fair Game” terribly one-sided. Not that it’s difficult to imagine guys like Scooter Libby and Karl Rove being involved in such a despicable act, but it certainly hurts the potency of the film’s message when the source material was written by people who clearly have a biased opinion of what happened. That doesn’t make it any less important, however, and it's worth seeing for the educational value alone. Plus, the film's best moments have nothing to do with politics at all, but rather the relationship between Plame and her husband – a marriage that was nearly ruined when Wilson decided to fight back against the media witch hunt.
Unfortunately, “Fair Game” is a movie of two halves, and although the latter half produces some great character drama centered on Wilson’s undying perseverance, the hour that precedes it is filled with tedious exposition about the investigation into Iraq’s nuclear weapons project. It’s necessary in order to get the audience up to speed, but it almost sinks the entire movie by dragging on for too long. Had anyone else been cast in the lead roles, it probably would have, but Naomi Watts and Sean Penn both bring their A-game, with the latter anchoring the final act in a commanding performance that might even have some right-wing voters cheering him on by the end. It doesn’t quite have the panache of an average Doug Liman film, but “Fair Game” makes the most of its ripped-from-the-headlines story to deliver a smart and engaging political thriller.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Doug Liman's latest film arrives on Blu-ray with exactly one extra: an audio commentary, and it's not even by someone who worked on the film. Instead, it features Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson, the real-life subjects of the film. And though the couple does its best to offer up interesting nuggets regarding the authenticity of certain details from the actual events, there is far too much dead air in between to make it worth sitting through.