Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fair Game

Recently I attended a luncheon for charity where three prominent people from the film industry were honored for their work. One of them was director Doug Limon (Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) who seemed to be a decent fellow. He spoke about his newest film Fair Game, the bio-pic about former CIA agent Valerie Plame, who was outed as such by the Bush Administration. He told us that he made the film as a sort of love letter to public service and that he had asked Mrs. Plame, after wrapping the film, after everything she went through if her kids wanted to serve either in Clandestine Services or the military would she try to talk them out of it. He said that she didn't hesitate or waver in her answer she said very plainly that she would be proud for them to serve. Considering the public bashing this woman took during this ordeal I wouldn't have begrudged her at least hesitating on that answer, but she didn't she didn't regret it at all. That in my mind is the sign of a true patriot. Its what also compelled me to see the film. I wanted to see for myself what a love letter to public service would look like. Whether it would preach on the pulpit for one side or would it give a balanced portrayal of these people without distorting the facts. I think it was kinda both, honestly.
Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) is an agent for the CIA in a division that specializes in non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Her husband former Ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) is sent by the VP's office to investigate claims of Yellowcake Uranium being processed for Saddam Hussein in the African country of Niger. After Wilson reports back that the report was bogus the White House continues the drumbeat about Niger alive in the State of the Union address which eventually led us to war with Iraq. Wilson, upset by the lie, decides to write an op-ed piece criticizing the administration for not telling the truth and for his actions the Administration decides to go after Wilson's wife by outing her in a newspaper article. The Wilson's struggle to hold their marriage and their collapsing careers together during the aftermath.
The performances are really exceptional and the chemistry between Sean Penn and Naomi Watts are solid. Naomi Watts will probably be a long shot for an Oscar but I think the Academy should seriously consider her for the nod. The film is at it's best following Valerie as she juggles her very stressful job with being a mother and a wife to a very public figure. The film falls flat when they follow Joe Wilson, especially when he launches his crusade against the administration. This is where the film veers off into pander territory and tends to get preachy. The film also was shot very poorly, good Lord, a person could get sick as the camera bounces around aimlessly from person to person. There were only one or two segments where I felt the camera was stagnant. I'm not entirely sure what Limon was going for here with the shaky cam. It works great for the Bourne movies but not for a drama like this. It just looks really unprofessional, which is sad because I thought the script and performances were so good. Nevertheless I found the film to be very entertaining and I found myself admiring Mrs. Plame for her unwavering ability to keep things level headed even while she is getting death threats. This is truly a woman who is apolitical and was only interested in doing her job to the fullest and most importantly interested in protecting her assets in the field. This is one of those stories that should be burned into the brains of every American that a crime was committed here, whether you agree with Joe Wilson politically or not his wife should not have been considered Fair Game, as Karl Rove famously told Chris Matthews. She was doing her job and lives and careers were lost because of this political action and that should never be forgotten.
Grade: 3 Buckets

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