Romy Shiller

Fair Game

In Film, review on September 9, 2011 at 8:51 am

Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead. -Benjamin Franklin

Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Stars: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn and Sonya Davison

I wasn’t going to review this film because I was in a coma when the actual story broke and I’d have to rely on hearsay and Google. However, this is foremost a film, I reminded myself, and one that I really liked. “The Plame Affair is a story that’s brimming with drama. It features international intrigue, marital tension, espionage, and betrayal by our own government.”Collider. Frack the reasons not to and just do.

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. 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.

I adore Sean Penn. His acting in this film was impeccable. Penn spoke out about his distaste for much of today’s cinema. He told Total Film magazine: “I have dubbed myself the Minister of Complaint about Hollywood movies and I do find it very difficult to not (sic) get uncontrollably in a rage most of the time when I go to movies.”

Liman previously directed the fictional spy films The Bourne Identity (2002) and Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005). Doing a real story like this excited him.

He says, “[The CIA] were helping me on Fair Game without realizing it, because they thought they were helping me on Covert Affairs, which is a TV show that I produce,” Liman explains. “I travelled to Washington, D.C., and was brought into the CIA by the people in the CIA who thought they were working on Covert Affairs, which has the support of the CIA. And I was only there to do research for Fair Game! I had the unique experience of spying on the CIA.” Ha! What a coup.

Naomi Watts as Plame rocks. No easy job to play someone real and she is credible. She and Valerie Plame Wilson were interviewed together: Valerie was asked about how her double life affected her marriage.

VPW: Maybe because I had lived that life for some time, I didn’t find that odd. And fortunately, because Joe had served in government and had interaction with the CIA, he understood that and he never … But overnight, when all that shifted, it just became much more difficult to sustain. The fact that I couldn’t tell him things all of a sudden, that became an issue. There is that scene in the park where Joe says, “Well, if you were lying, could I tell?” It hadn’t bothered him before, because he understood what the job entailed. Then all of a sudden it became, “Huh, what am I doing with her?” As deeply as I loved him, it looked desperate at times. We were both just trying to deal with it.

NW: I think we all know that the construct of a marriage is a difficult thing. You lost everything in a day—your career, Joe’s reputation. You almost lost each other in the process of trying to understand it all. What I loved about this story is that they got through it.

We see major conflict in Plame’s life, in the film. Certain informers become casualties of her reveal and her marriage is compromised. She is unreasonably branded a liar and a traitor. She is worried about her family’s life. She wonders about her ‘breaking point.’ Very exciting and dramatic, I must say.

The cinematography had a certain grittiness to it that made the film feel real, not slick. The aesthetic and the film in general felt very anti-Hollywood. Penn must have been glad.

The story was remarkably balanced between family, action and work. When we see her in the field, she is capable determined and honest. Her marriage is very interesting. While her husband is aware of her line of work, he is not aware of her impeding location. They are both extremely bright and ethical. When they get caught in an evil web of bureaucracy, we sympathize.

Reviewer Christy Lemire says, “Fair Game” moves well and keeps us riveted, even as it encompasses a great deal of complex material — no surprise again, coming from the director of “The Bourne Identity.” I agree.

This film was very good. I recommend it.

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.

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