Fair Game (2010)

(In theaters, December 2010) One of the most unfortunate consequences of the neo-conservative fumbling in Iraq is that, for years to come, they will have to endure I-told-you-so reminders from liberals who were dead-set against the invasion in the first place.  So it is that Fair Game is a politically engaged re-telling of the events surrounding the White House’s public outing of CIA Valerie Plame in retaliation for her husband’s public dissent on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  The story will be most familiar to those who have paid attention during the Bush administration, but the film does a fair job at contextualizing the issues in a way that should be accessible to those for whom this is a new story.  Righteously angry and not shy about letting some of this anger show, Fair Game is fodder for left-wing moviegoers in much the same way that Green Zone was.  (Extra trivia point for those who remember that Fair Game director Doug Liman directed the first Jason Bourne movie, after which the series was taken over by Green Zone’s Paul Greengrass.)  Shot docufiction-style with a camera that jerks around even in conversation scenes when it doesn’t need to, Fair Game is most fascinating when it offers a deglamourized portrait of real-world intelligence and the way partisan politics bandwagons can destroy people’s lives.  As for the rest, well, the film needs to be taken with a grain of salt, given the usual Hollywood dramatizations to make it all feel more interesting.  Sean Penn continues to prove that he’s becoming a more interesting actor with time, but it’s Naomi Watts who shines as Plame, a rare multi-faceted female character balancing work and family life.  While praise for the film is likely to cut along partisan lines, Fair Game itself is a fine piece of work, suspenseful while reasonably realistic.  It’s a deft dramatization of complex events, and despite a bit of a late-film lull, it achieves what it wants to do.

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