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. Written by
Naomi Watts and Sean Penn also appeared in the movie "21 Grams". See more »
The camera sound effects used throughout the film for the press photographers' cameras do not include the classic mechanical motor drive or motor winder sound after each shutter click. This means the sound effects were from modern digital SLRs, which were not widely used in 2001. There would have been plenty of motor drive noise from vintage 2001 pro SLRs. See more »
Redressing a small but nasty piece of political bastardry
In retrospect, the George "Dubyah" Bush administration seems to have been more incompetent than evil, but this movie holds the Bushies to account for what was a completely malicious and unjustified act, the outing of the covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, which put numerous undercover operations and informants at risk, solely because her husband former Ambassador Joe Wilson IV had the temerity to dissent publicly from the White House line that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from Niger for bomb-making purposes. It is also evident that the CIA's soundly based advice that Saddam's bomb-making activities had ceased after the first Gulf War in 1991 was studiously ignored by the White House in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The actual leaker, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage got away scot-free, a crucial matter not discussed in the film , but "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Chaney's chief of staff carried the can and nearly spent 30 months inside for lying to investigators before being pardoned by the President. The film focuses on Libby and implies he was the leaker, acting with the knowledge of Karl Rove, the man who described Valerie Plame as "fair game", and Vice President Cheney.
Director Doug Liman is best known as a producer of thrillers ("Bourne Ultimation" etc) but here he and the Butterworths (Jez and John Henry) as scriptwriters have focused not only on the political intrigue but also the effect the Bushies' bastardry had on Joe and Valerie's personal lives. This gives some great acting possibilities to Sean Penn as Joe and our very own Naomi Watts as Valerie, and they both rise to the occasion, although Sean Penn might be a little self-righteous for some tastes. The personal impact aside, what the leakers did was a good deal worse than anything Julian Assange has done, and it is ironic that some of the conservative commentators who tried to discredit Joe and Valerie are now in the front line of those attacking the Wikileaks founder.
Regardless of the politics, this movie is entertaining enough to pass the watch test despite some dodgy hand-held photography. Near the end Valerie has a meeting with a very senior CIA officer glimpsed earlier, on a park bench in front of the White House. This man, played by Bruce McGill, bears a remarkable physical resemblance to the then director of the CIA, George Tenet. He warns her that she and Joe are up against the most powerful men in the world and asks her to stay silent for the sake of the agency. Valerie points out the agency won't even give her family any protection against death threats, to which Tenet, if that's who it's meant to be, merely shrugs his shoulders. What are the film makers trying to say here - that the agency doesn't look after its own?
Both Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame were patriots and, I believe, from Republican backgrounds. This did not bother the leakers who clearly couldn't care less who they hurt in the propaganda battle over the Iraqi invasion they were determined to launch. This film is based on two books by Joe and Valerie so I suppose it is a somewhat partisan account. Nevertheless it is hard to imagine a film treatment justifying what was done to them. George Bush in his memoirs mentions the Libby pardon issue but is otherwise silent on who did what. Never mind, his place in history as one of the lesser presidents is assured.
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