Two thumbs up and at least eight out of ten stars for the movie “Fair Game.” It’s based upon Valerie Plame’s book by the same title, as well as her husband Joe Wilson’s book “The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Led To War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity.”
Naomi Watts and Sean Penn are brilliant as Plame and Wilson. Beyond that, the action of Plame’s job as a CIA operative and the difficulty she and her husband had in preserving their marriage with two kids as their world fell apart, sucks you in, grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. There’s also the the fact that the film is historically relevant with regard to Ms. Plame’s outing as a CIA operative by members of the Bush Administration. Details on the way that same Administration fashioned intelligence to suit their own purposes in the runup to war are particularly revealing (and I think, accurate), for anyone who might still be wondering how it all went down with Saddam’s aluminum tubes, “yellowcake” from Niger and the threat of “mushroom clouds” over American cities.
Mostly left out, is the question of the mainstream media’s failure to adequately confront these issues as they were unfolding and to then fulfill their obligation to the American people by holding the Administration’s feet to the fire. The media, at that time, continued to mostly cower in fear when confronted by the rhetorical machinations of the Rove/Bush PR machine. There was also a general feeling that it was okay for the nation’s leaders to do whatever might be necessary to protect lives and property. Anyone who pushed back was deemed un-American. Bringing that into the film would have done more to emphasize the unusual courage of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. However, it might also have made an otherwise excellent screenplay far less entertaining by making it longer and giving it the feel of a documentary as opposed to the real life adventure that it was.
That said, the film does contains lessons on on what it means to be an American and continuing the fight to preserve Democracy, even when faced by seemingly impossible odds. Like taking on the White House. For that reason alone, it should be screened and discussed in every schoolroom in America.
This is not a film for those who can’t handle the truth. It isn’t laden with the sex, drugs, gratuitous violence and dumbed-down comedy that pulls in the youth audience. Consequently, it probably won’t do all that well at the box office.