The more you agree with Fair Game politically, the more it will work for you. As a liberal myself, Doug Liman’s story of the Valerie Plame affair succeeded in getting me angry. The film does not take an unbiased approach but that is OK considering the story it’s telling. However even if you agree with the film’s message, the film still has to work on it’s own as a movie and Fair Game definitely does. It is a taut, intense, smart, and sometimes harrowing political thriller following the days that led up to the bombing of Iraq and it’s aftermath. The film get’s strong performances from it’s two leads, Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.
We all know the story of Valerie Plame, she was a CIA spy whose identity was revealed in the newspaper, however Fair Game gives us a procedural of the events leading up to her leak. Liman gives us Plame’s life on the job and in a way, this film is the anti Bourne Identity. There are no big chase sequences or anything like that. The most suspenseful sequence of the film is when Plame has to convince Dr. Zahara (played brilliantly in the film’s standout performance by Liraz Charhi) to go to Iraq and find out information from her brother Hammad (Khaled Nabawy). In turn, Plame has agreed to protect her entire family.
Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, is the complete opposite of his wife. Wilson, who went over to Niger to see if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and when the government twisted what he had to say in his report, wrote a column blasting the Bush White House, is a complete extravert while his wife is completely introverted. It is a pleasure to see Penn be that gregarious and bring as much humor as he does to the role of Joe Wilson. It sounds stupid to say that his performance was surprising but it was just that.
The scenes that focus on the marriage are probably the least effective parts of the film. Liman isn’t as comfortable in dealing with those scenes as he is when he is dealing with the procedural scenes. However these sequences are a reminder that like in all cases, these are human beings we are dealing with. Liman choses to keep George W Bush off screen, an effective choice because the story is not about him.