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One of the major events that President George W. Bush will undoubtedly
be remembered for in history will be his decision to declare war on
Iraq in 2003. If we recall back to early 2003 when the administration
was laying out its reasons for invading Iraq, the one most marketed to
the American public was the idea that Saddam Hussein was in the process
of creating chemical or nuclear weapons, which he would then give to
terrorists who could then use them to attack American cities. Of
course, soon after the war began it was discovered that these weapons
either never existed or no longer existed, and to this day no one in
the CIA or federal government has been able to explain how the
intelligence community could have gotten it so wrong.
"Fair Game" places itself right in the middle of these controversial events between 2002 and 2004, and is told through the eyes of CIA Agent Valerie Plame (played very convincingly by Naomi Watts) and her husband, United Nations Ambassador Joe Wilson (played fiercely by the always great Sean Penn). The film's story follows how Plame goes from patriotic CIA agent diligently doing her job overseas to suddenly having her identity made public after her husband uncovered false information about a nuclear development sale between Iraq and Niger. This false information about a uranium sale between these two countries is important because it was implied as factual when Bush was listing information about Iraq during his State of The Union Speech in early 2003.
As the film starts, Plame and Wilson appear to be a very loving couple with a very strong marriage - they even have 2 small children who live with them in the D.C. area. Plame is busy traveling covertly to countries in The Middle East to shake her fist at people whom might have ties to terrorists, while Wilson is back at home, often finding himself in heated arguments with friends at the dinner table whom hold a different opinions from his own. Both Plame and Wilson appear to be relatively non-political civilians working peacefully and dutifully for the federal government - until the Bush administration decides that the country should invade Iraq. After Wilson criticizes the administration's faulty information publicly, Plame is then fired from her job, and much of the rest of the film focuses on how the couple's marriage is stressed because of what is transpiring all over the media. People harass them often when they go out, as Wilson makes rounds on the media circuit to try to restore his name. The film has a little bit of a soap-operish feel to it during the 2nd half in that it is mostly focused on the couple's relationship, but the acting performances by Watts and Penn are just so sharp that they make up for some of the film's small flaws when it comes to storytelling. There is also a small subplot involving a family in Iraq connected with Plame's counter-proliferation efforts that should have been either developed more or left out entirely, as that is the weakest part of the film - but fortunately those scenes are relatively few in the entire film.
Aside from the acting, another of the film's strengths is how it never gets too preachy towards the Bush administration, but rather focuses on the facts of what unfairly happened to Plame and Wilson from their own points of view. In fact, no actor plays Bush or Cheney in the film - we only see a few clips of the real Bush and Cheneys giving speeches on TV screens for a matter of seconds. Scooter Libby (portrayed a bit villainously by David Andrews) is seen in a few short scenes as a swindler who tries to convince CIA employees into manipulating the intelligence the way he sees it, but his characterization is very subtle, rather than as an in your face bad guy. Doug Liman's direction is also fairly fast-paced to make sure the film never gets too bogged down in pointless scenes. Even though it is very talky and dialogue-driven, the narrative keeps moving forward at a crisp pace - at least if audience members are adults without ADD (and I think it's pretty fair to say that this movie isn't marketed for the Transformers or Twilight crowd...) The film generally works very well both as an entertaining drama, spy thriller, and an educational lesson. Moreover, it's an intelligent reminder to the public of how people in positions in power in government will often stop at nothing to achieve their desired goals, even if that means illegally abusing their power through misinformation, manipulation, and character assassination. As citizens we should constantly be questioning our leaders and their motives, as well as keeping them honest and holding them accountable whenever they they violate our trust.
On a final note, I have to say that I find it very refreshing to see a film like this that has a woman in a very intelligent leading role, rather than how Hollywood films usually stereotype females in formulaic romantic comedies. It seems like women in major roles usually have their sappy characters obsessing about trying to find a man and buying shoes, with some slapstick and comedy at the dinner table with their parents thrown in as well (a.k.a. chick flicks). It's either that or the female characters get almost zero screen time, where they are relegated to simply being the cute girlfriend sidekick. It's nice to see movies like this allow womens' dramatic acting talents to shine and allow us to see them as complex, real characters.
First of all: I'm not an American, so I have no interest in any of the
left wing vs right wing political immaturity that goes on there. And
since I'm being honest: if this film was a work of fiction - it
wouldn't have been that great, maybe a 6/10 IMDb rating.
What makes this film absolutely mind blowing is that this stuff actually happened. Wow! You can argue the little details if you wish, but the bulk of this is public record and you're not kidding anyone. This gets an 8/10 on IMDb from me because it's non-fiction and it's a very very important story.
The war in Iraq was a crime and the guilty should be required to watch this movie, a few times. How many thousands of lives could have been saved? Feel shame and learn from your mistakes. Get mad! Don't ever be fooled like this again!!!
Frankly this movie should be shown in schools for the next 100 years - it should be considered required viewing in History classes. I think it's important that this little piece of the past is not swept under the rug anytime soon. I praise the makers of this film, I praise Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame.
Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it - so cherish this 108 minute reminder of America's greatest mistake.
Fair Game follows in the tradition of All The President's Men as presenting a probing look into an important political issue in the form of a crackling thriller. Director Doug Liman uses his Bourne Identity/Mr & Mrs Smith skills to move the true story of exposure of Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), the wife of US senator Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), as a CIA undercover agent by the Bush Administration at breakneck speed. Plame's research based on her contacts in Iraq had put serious doubts on the existence of WMD in Iraq, which was not in line with White House's view point. They thus considered her "fair game" for discrediting and public exposure. Fair Game is fascinating for all those interested in the mechanism of power and use/abuse of it; and is also a riveting piece of film making. In my view it's Liman's best film to date.
This is an amazingly well put together movie. The screenplay is totally
understandable. One of the best films about the process of going in to
the Iraq War and the use of information at the time. I was
superficially familiar with Plame's story but did not realize how vital
her and her husband's work was in relation to the Iraq war.
Naomi Watts does a very good job. She doesn't overact but you can see her vulnerability and passion. She blends into the role so well that unlike Nicole Kidman you don't think of a movie star acting but you focus on the story. Virginia Madsen looks more like Valerie Plame but unfortunately is now too old. Sean Penn is a bit too unattractive for the role but his acting ability makes up for it.
The production is top notch with an authentic on location feel to it.
Valerie Plame's story has to be told in this movie form so everyone can learn about what happened to her. It is a great story about the life of a CIA operative and it's toll on family life. It also is a great story about how the most patriotic acts can be so difficult to carry out in the face of unjust opposition.
The movie really deserves some big award nominations.
Those were the words of Valerie Plame's superior right before he fired
her. It doesn't matter who you are or what you do. If you cross paths
with the most powerful people in the world: you get broken in half.
It's that simple. Fair Game is my kind of movie: real characters, real
people, real events. This movie confirms everything I already knew or
suspected, but this is powerful stuff. If you ever felt overwhelmed or
helpless: try these guy's shoes for a week in that awful period between
2003 and 2005.
Hollywood is getting out of it's shell after the 2000-2008 period in which the Hawk's reintroduced a period of McCarthyism. Hollywood became a propaganda machine for Bush: 'Support the troops, don't you love America?' I still see the images of the speech at the Oscars Michael Moore gave: "Shame on you Mr. President". The room booed and cheered at the same time, but the front row with every A-list actor you can think of, sat quiet and didn't move. They said nothing. Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame did not stay quiet. It's hard to comprehend that these events didn't happen 50 years ago. They happened less than 10 years ago. The White House created a smokescreen that very few people could see through. Those who did were outnumbered and slaughtered. Thank God for the educational purposes of cinema.
The Green Zone, Body of Lies and such are movies which tried to point out the errors in foreign policies, but Fair Game says it out loud: they wanted a war and the would stop at nothing to get it. Destroy anything or anyone who gets in the way. Most members of that White House got a slap on the wrist and are now giving $100.000 lectures.
Doug Liman has made his best movie yet. He has now made my list of accomplished directors. It's topnotch on a technical level and at a dramatic level. Liman leaves out any information the viewer knows or should be able to piece together for themselves. The script got me from start to finish. So did the actors.
No, there not much wrong with this movie. That's why it pains me that it bombed at the box-office. These kinda movies should be celebrated for their courage. But no, movies like Inception get all the attention. And nobody cares over hundreds of thousands civilians died because of the Iraq-war.
"Fair Game" is a film directed by Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity,"
"Mr. and Mrs. Smith") based on the memoir "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy,
My Betrayal by the White House" by Valerie Plame. Sean Penn is back
after taking a two-year acting break since his second Best Acting Oscar
for "Milk" in 2008. He plays the character of Politician Joe Wilson
alongside Naomi Watts' portrayal of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Together
these two tell the true story behind the weapons of mass destruction
scare in 2002 and 2003 in Iraq that ultimately lead the United States
to war. Valerie Plame is in the middle of the investigation of WMDs in
Iraq. In order to learn more about the possible WMDs the government has
Valerie's husband Joe travel as an ambassador to Niger in order to get
information about the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq. Joe learns
that there is not going to be a sale but the government twists the
story. After viewing the State of the Union Address Joe Wilson decides
to write an article in the New York Times stating the truth behind what
he found in Niger challenging the White House directly. In response,
the government declassifies Valerie's status as a CIA agent making her
"Fair Game" and putting her directly in the public eye in order to
bring shame to her husband and her family. This sparks a fire within
Joe to fight the White House, but also begins to tear him and his wife
"Fair Game" allows Naomi Watts and Sean Penn to let loose and take over the screen with their acting talents. Watts doe a very good job with her role portrayal of hard shelled Valerie Plame. She is able to create the stubborn exterior of Plame while showing her emotional side deep within. Congratulations is in order for her being able to stand out while on screen with Hollywood superstar and Academy favorite Sean Penn. All of the talk about the film has been directed towards Watts as Oscar season approaches, but it would be no surprise if Penn receives an Oscar birth as well. He is phenomenal in the film creating a very unique character breaking through the clichés that could have been. Both of these actors are able to give the film heart and show the strength that the couple had in order to fight the corrupt government sector leading to the fall of Scooter Libby.
The film is slow to start as the back story is built however, while the characters of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson are developed completely all of the other characters seem to be left behind. They come off as just walking through the motions making it very hard to connect and differentiate between them. This can be attributed to one of two things. Either the acting is less than adequate, or there are so many characters that Watts interacts with at the CIA it are hard to put a name with any of the faces.
"Fair Game" is a political thriller that needed to be made. However, it is your job as the audience to reach out and see it because of its limited film release. Go see it now in order to learn about the story and note that a Best Picture Oscar nomination may be waiting for this dark horse of this year's award season.
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.
From the opening scene in Malaysia to the mines of Niger and then to
the streets of Baghdad, "Fair Game" begins as an espionage thriller, a
"Bourne" film without the obligatory car chases, shootouts and fights,
but rather, with a woman who uses her brains and intellect.
Once the film shifts its focus back in the United States of America, the film takes a slight turn to the dramatic route and thus may seem melodramatic with this married people's lives being tinkered with and with no one but each other to help them. Having said that, "Fair Game" (no, not that dreadful Cindy Crawford/William Baldwin cheeseball) is a remarkably well-crafted political thriller that is driven home with outstanding, terrific performances by both Naomi Watts and especially Sean Penn.
Whether you believe the many questions posed in the film are truth or merely lies (whether the agency really did take that drastic measure to cover up what the government did not want to hear to prevent the war... or is this all propaganda from the start?), I really can't say, because this happened in another country far away from my home, so I have no right to say whose side I'm on.
Watts plays CIA agent Valerie Plame whose cover gets blown and who gets blamed for the leak of wrong information to the White House, who uses said information to invade Iraq. Is this all true? Suppose it is, given that the news footage of both at-the-time President Bush and Vice President Cheney look strikingly foreshadowing when compared to the events in the movie - this is meant to provoke outrage at the government's so-called "ignorance and stupidity" so they say, so what? I'm not saying anything to make myself sound like I'm on the wrong line, nor am I saying anything to disprove the film's "facts" either. I'm just stating that this is a great drama, no matter what you believe.
See, the thing with drama is that fact can and will be fictionalized so that it may be accepted easily by the ever-interested audience. "Fair Game" may be slow-paced and devoid of action sequences ala Doug Liman's previous blockbuster efforts, but here not a moment lost my interest, even the dramatic ones between Watts and Penn, as they ignite the screen with fiery performances, as this political scandal isn't only affecting their jobs and their reputations, it's also affecting their love life. And it's crumbling as things go from bad to worse in this film.
Watts is superb in this film. In the beginning she acts very convincingly as a strong, determined, iron-willed woman, mother, and wife who is very confident about herself and not willing to push into any demand that comes at her way. Later after the scandal is spread she slowly but surely devolves into a woman that is filling with desperation and fear, until she nearly loses control of her downward spiral. Ditto with Sean Penn here. He is absolutely mesmerizing, as always, as Plame's husband Ambassador Joe Wilson. Soft spoken and charming when he needs to, but when he's angry he makes everyone feel the rage without becoming too overdone. Wilson as portrayed by Penn is a character who's not about to let this scandal get in the way of his family, so he decides to clear his and his wife's name by using the media and criticizing the government. Of course, his wife isn't happy about this and it causes more tension between them. Penn and Watts show terrific chemistry together that hasn't been lost since "21 Grams" and both of them vividly portray not politicians trying to get the truth, but rather more of a family trying to pull themselves together. So it's not entirely an espionage thriller like this film was sadly marketed as. The supporting actors are also great in their own right.
This film does pose a lot of questions that make one think during the movie about the purpose and cause of the Iraq war, the invasion and more importantly, the power and impact the US government has on their own people and the various ways they can abuse it on them to get whatever they want. And this is proved with the decaying lives of Plame and Wilson from American citizens to branded traitors. You can't imagine how they really felt, but Penn and Watts come really, REALLY close to it.
The film has it's flaws, though. The pacing could be a little bit tighter and the dialog in Iraq doesn't sound genuinely Iraqi. However, Doug Liman's direction is enough to keep the tension gripping and the film focused on the characters and not just glimpses of the war and scandal themselves. John Powell's music score is refreshingly low-key and it suits the dramatic mood of the film even better. Liman's cinematography (pulling a double duty here) is nicely framed without excessive style to it, making it simple, easy to watch, and gripping. Editing is fluid and the screenplay is written very well with equal amounts of intelligence and emotions.
In short, this is a superbly fine drama of the lives of the people in the limelight of this political scandal, with terrific performances and strong direction worthy of a theater ticket. Go see this movie and savor the performances and the question of the US government on its own people.
I find it strangely coincidental that the filmmakers from the "Jason Bourne" series both released movies this year that criticize the Bush administration. Doug Liman made this film, while Paul Greengrass made the slightly superior "Green Zone" and even managed to bring star Matt Damon with him. Composer John Powell scored both films. You can think of this movie as a companion piece to "Green Zone", hell, you can imagine the events in both movies happening at the same time. Now THAT would be a wicked idea.
Overall rating: 80/100
War. Media. Spin. Economics.
We must be reminded that the media is a scathing dog, a venomous snarler that can be fighting for you or against you. The witnesses to this battle of info-rage get brainwashed, we get brainwashed, and become the court of public opinion.
While the movie does not address the reasons the war was started, it brilliantly displays how official bullshit can be thrown over us like a comforting shroud, and that shroud can stimulate our anger as well as justify our anger.
Brilliantly performed by Sean Penn and the beautiful Naomi Watts. I am humbled by their talent and dedication. I am humored by the desperate IMDb rants of those whom still think the war was a 'good' thing - I say to you ranters, wake up for your own good :)
Governments lie, don't forget it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the key ingredients in President George W. Bush's campaign to
convince the American people of the necessity of invading Iraq and
removing Saddam Hussein from power was the sixteen lines in his January
28, 2003 State of the Union address in which he claimed that "the
British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought
significant quantities of uranium from Africa," presumably to build a
nuclear bomb. Though the CIA and the State Department told the White
House that this was not good intelligence, by repeating this false
statement, Bush was able to push through a vote in Congress to
authorize the war in Iraq, warning of "mushroom clouds" over American
Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and based on books written by covert CIA operative Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) and her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn), Fair Game is a hard hitting political thriller about events leading up to the Iraq War of 2003 that dramatizes the Bush Administration's eagerness to convince Americans that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that were a threat to our national security. Though partly fictionalized, the film points to many real events and uses the actual names of the participants involved with the exception of the invented exiled Iraqi doctor (Liraz Charhi) Valerie recruits and her brother (Khaled Nabawy), a scientist living in Baghdad.
Fair Game survives a confusing opening hour that shows events around the globe from Kuaka Lumpur, to Amman, Jordan, to Cairo, Egypt and Cleveland, Ohio in its effort to establish that Plame, a hardened CIA spy for 18 years, worked in secret on a mission to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Though Plame did work in that capacity, depiction of events that take place abroad in the film's first hour are imagined since Plame's real work in the CIA is classified, though Liman claims that credible scenarios were pieced together from interviews with other sources.
Plame hides her secret life by telling friends that she is working as a venture capitalist, and even her husband knows little of her whereabouts and what exactly she is working on. Liman describes the Wilson's home life including their relationship with their two small children and reminds us how difficult it was for both spouses. According to the script by Jez Butterworth and his brother John-Henry, Plame is soon asked to lead a special Task Force to ascertain the legitimacy of reports that Niger has sold 50 tons of "yellowcake" uranium ore to Saddam Hussein. Consequently, her husband, Joe Wilson, a former US diplomat in both Niger and Iraq and knowledgeable about Niger, was dispatched with Valerie's approval to Africa to investigate.
Wilson, in reporting back to the CIA on his mission, established to his and the agency's satisfaction that not only were these reports false, but it would have been impossible for Niger to make such a uranium sale. The White House was informed by the CIA of this fact in March 2002, 10 months before the president's speech. In a July 6 opinion piece for the New York Times, Wilson wrote: "Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." He added that, given the administration's rejection of his and the CIA's analysis "because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses." Shortly thereafter, Wilson's wife Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA spy was exposed in a column written by Richard Novak, a reporter friendly to the White House. Though the reason behind the exposure is not known with certainty, Wilson claimed that Karl Rove told reporters that outing Plame in the newspaper was "fair game", and the former diplomat calls his wife's exposure an act of political reprisal for the piece critical of the White House. Whatever the motive, it was a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and led to the appointment of a special prosecutor and the indictment and sentencing of Cheney's Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, a sentence commuted by President Bush.
With Valerie's cover blown, she is dismissed by the C.I.A. called a traitor by sycophants in the media, threatened with death by phone calls to her Washington, D.C. home, and rejected by her friends who ask her if she carries a gun and has she ever killed anyone? Plame is reluctant to go public but her husband willingly talks on TV shows to clear their names and bring to light the administration's chicanery. This public display, however, threatens the stability of their marriage as Wilson attempts to convince his wife to speak out but is met with strong resistance.
The turning point, according to the film, is Valerie's visit to her parents, especially when her father (Sam Shepard), a retired Air Force officer, convinces her that loyalty to one's country can work both ways. Labeled as "inspired by real events" and told from the viewpoint of Plame and Wilson with events in the White House taken from actual court transcripts, Fair Game is a timely reminder of the abuse of governmental power and the lives of innocent people that are caught in the crosswinds. Though the film's second half feels strangely rushed and incomplete, Fair Game is a powerful film that forces us to relive the outrage of those days when government deception was an everyday occurrence.
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