Fair Game ~ (USA, 2010) ~ DVD

These are the fuckers that are trying to get back into office. People with names like “Scooter” Libby. Never trust anyone nicknamed Scooter. When the cowboy President wanted to make his mark, to secure his place in history, Mr. Mission-Never-Accomplished dreamt up the elaborate WMD bogeyman. Actually, it’s likely that Bush never dreamt, that would take too much imagination, and assumes a life of the mind. But his coterie of handlers knew what he needed to feel good about himself, and they gave it to him. In the process, they fooled most of the American people. The same people who believe that Obama is a communist, not to mention a foreigner.

But enough of that. Fair Game is not so much a spy story, as it is a cautionary tale of the abuse of power. Haven’t we been cautioned enough? Apparently not, since we seem not to have learned our lesson. The film is the movie version of the events that led to the unprecedented outing of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame Wilson. As events forged ahead in Iraq, despite evidence to the contrary, former Ambassador Joe Wilson who had had some peripheral involvement in gathering information that refuted that fantasy story that the Bush administration was wont to tell, began to understand that his truth was turned into Bush’s lies. Joe spoke out. Karl Rove and his stooges struck back, and outed Wilson’s wife. The rest is history. Until it is re-written by the right.

Naomi Watts is excellent as Valerie, dedicated, driven, hard as nails, a respected covert CIA operative. As her husband, Joe Wilson, Sean Penn is earnest and Quixote like as ever – railing against injustice, he can never keep his mouth shut. This is demonstrated over and over again, as he explodes at ‘dinner with friends’ several times. Valerie always tries to keep the wraps on him. Of course, she’s trained in keeping the lid on under any circumstances, so it’s an interesting dynamic between the two. A dynamic that plays into what seems to become the breakdown of their marriage during the stress of the dirty tricks played on them.

Both Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson wrote their own books detailing their stories, and the movie is taken from both of their memoirs of the events. It’s a clear exposition of them, rather straightforward and compelling. The domestic life of the two is less straightforward, more subtle and human. A word about the underappreciated and underutilized Sam Shepard. Having recently seen him in the wonderful Blackthorn at this years Tribeca, it was good to see him here, albeit in a cameo: A short scene, but a pivotal one, as Valerie’s father. He’s such a good actor.

This is a better film I think than it has been given credit for. Certainly, it’s heart is in the right place, and does not come off as manipulative, as a story of this sort might be prone to. Recommended.

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