From the director of The Bourne Identity comes this riveting thriller inspired by the experiences of real-life CIA officer Valerie Plame (Academy Awardr nominee Naomi Watts). When Plame's retired ambassador husband Joe Wilson (played by Academy Awardr winner Sean Penn) writes a newspaper article challenging the basis for the U.S. war on Iraq, the White House leaks Plame's undercover status-leaving her international contacts vulnerable, her career in shambles and her life in danger. Crackling with sharp dialogue, gripping intrigue and heart-pounding suspense, Fair Game is the adventure that's so unbelievable, it can only be real.
The skullduggery surrounding the Valerie Plame affair is already the stuff of an espionage thriller, even if at the time of the making of Fair Game
many details of the incident remained murky. Naomi Watts plays Plame, a longtime CIA agent whose classified status was exposed to the world by columnist Robert Novak in 2003. The move was widely seen as retaliation for the fact that Plame's husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn), had just written an op-ed piece contradicting an assertion in President Bush's State of the Union address--an assertion that was part of the Bush administration's drum-beating enthusiasm for the Iraq War. The movie can't answer all the questions about who wanted Plame exposed, but at the least it could create a convincing piece of Beltway intrigue. Instead, Fair Game
steers in the direction of domestic melodrama, as the marriage between Plame and Wilson is severely tested by the unwanted notoriety. It's not that the actors are unable to bring this situation to life; Penn is forceful (and he cleverly suggests the vanity of a longtime cocktail-party maven), while Watts, though quite capable, is somewhat frozen by her character's mixed, ambivalent reactions. The main problem is simply that these relationship scenes tip the balance, as though the Plame-Wilson marriage carried greater weight than allegations of weapons of mass destruction and the ramp-up to the Iraq War. Meanwhile, director Doug Liman tries to whip up some spy-movie "energy" with lots of noise and cutting, all of which feels increasingly hollow as the movie goes along. A calmer, cleaner documentary on the same subject might do a superior job someday. --Robert Horton