Review: Fair Game


Directed by: Doug Liman
Written by:Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Starring: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Ty Burrell, Sam Shepard, Bruce McGill, Noah Emmerich
Released: November 25, 2010
Grade: B

Those who enjoy a good spy thriller will be interested to hear the true story of the Valerie Plame.  She commenced work for the CIA in 1985 and was involved in a number of undercover operations across the globe.

I’ve always been fascinated by those who work for the CIA.  Effectively, Valerie lived a double life.  One part of her was at home with her husband and kids.  The other part was off gathering intelligence in places like Athens and Brussels.  How does one pull that off?

There’s a fun scene early in the film when Valerie and her husband, Joe, are hosting a dinner party.  The topic of conversation turns to politics and things get quite heated.  Valerie would love to set the record straight and give everyone the truth - the “inside information” that’s kept from the public.  Unfortunately, she has to sit there and pretend to know little about the subject matter.  It doesn’t stop Joe going on a tirade however.

Valerie’s successful career came to an abrupt end in 2003 when she was named as a CIA agent by a journalist for the Washington Post.  Her identity had been revealed.  She was no longer of value to the agency.  How had this happened?  Who had leaked the information to the press?  Was it retaliation for her husband’s harsh words in the public against the Bush administration?  Something didn’t add up and she seemly had few allies within the CIA.

Fair Game is based on the separate novels written by our two protagonists – Valerie Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson.  It’s an interesting story.  For those who don’t already know the end to this tale, you’ll realise there were a lot of important people involved in the cover up.  They were determined to destroy Valerie’s reputation for their own political gain.  I’m sure it’s not the first time this has happened.

This film is hindered by its screenplay.  A few supporting characters are thrown into the mix (such as their parents, children and friends) but I’m still unsure as to their purpose.  I wanted to see the effect that this ordeal had on those around them but the script chooses not to go into detail.  Why?  Sam Shepard is introduced late as Valerie’s father but offers very little (especially for an actor such as himself).

My criticisms regarding the story's delivery are largely negated by the strong performances from Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.  This isn’t the first time we’ve seen them together.  They appeared opposite each other in 21 Grams and The Assassination Of Richard Nixon.

It’s not a bad effort from director Doug Liman (Go, Swingers) but I expected something with more punch.