Fair Game (2010)

Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Naomi WattsSean Penn
Plot: Plame's status as a CIA agent was revealed by White House officials allegedly out to discredit her husband after he wrote a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Genre: Action/Biography/Drama
Awards: Nom. for Palme d'Or (Cannes).
Runtime: 108min
Rating: PG for some language.



Fair Game is director Doug Liman’s righteous attack on the Bush Administration during the uncertain times after 9/11. Starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, the film is a sociopolitical drama recounting the events that led to the public disgracing of CIA intelligence officer Valerie Plame (Watts) after her husband Joe Wilson (Penn) wrote an article that revealed that the White House distorted intelligence findings to justify the war in Iraq. Very much a film that is borne out of anger at the abuse of (democratic) power by the US government, Fair Game would resonate with anyone who cares about the consequences of injustice.

Liman is popular for his crowd-pleasing action films such as The Bourne Identity (2002), and Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005). But with Fair Game, he travels down a far more serious road, and shows that he is as capable navigating it as any seasoned traveler. The film could be loosely described as an action-thriller in the Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, 2007; Green Zone, 2010) mould, but in essence it relies more on the dramatic strength of the lead performances rather than a spectacular show of pyrotechnics or through suspense milked from tense man-on-the-run scenarios.

Penn and Watts provide a convincing portrayal of husband and wife who are committed to serving their nation honorably. Wilson is very vocal and would go all out to right whatever he feels is wrong. Plame, on the other hand, prefers to keep things stealthy, like how she negotiates with her clients in faraway places like Kuala Lumpur and Baghdad. But when Wilson decides on his own accord to publish an article condemning the White House for their misuse of intelligence, things turn for the absolute worst.

The consequences are far-reaching, and as seen in the film, it affects not only the family of Wilson and Plame, but also puts in jeopardy the intelligence contacts established by the latter. Intercutting live footage from TV news of American bombings in Iraq into the film narrative, Liman also shows the devastating impact on Iraqi lives caused by the US government as a result of their lies told to the American public to gather support for a war we later learnt was unjustified.

However, Liman does not spend a lot of time on the war in Iraq, which is spot-on because ultimately this is a film about Plame, an individual unfairly discriminated against and treated like a traitor because her husband decided to (and had to) fight to expose the truth, even if it means fighting the most powerful institution in the world. What is the meaning of democracy if truth is hindered in the quest for justice, or when elected officials represent themselves and not the public who trusted and elected them? Fair Game provides quite a good tonic for this inquiry.


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I agree with your analysis that "Penn and Watts provide a convincing portrayal of husband and wife who are committed to serving their nation honorably." The acting was superb and I really felt for the two lead characters. However, after watching the film, I did extensive research, and discovered there are many false claims in it. If you would like to read my analysis, here is the link: http://21stcenturyfilms.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/fair-game/
Eternality Tan said…
Hi there, thanks have read your article. I'm sure there are false claims in most films with a political slant, if only for fodder to make the film riveting. It appears that FAIR GAME has more false claims than expected. Thanks for sharing.

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