Friday 8 July 2011

Today's Review: Fair Game

Fair Game is a movie based on the true story of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative who was exposed amid controversy surrounding the war in Iraq. I guess it was quite a big story, but I was only 16 when all this happened, so I was probably too concerned with being a sulky teenager to notice.

The story follows Valerie (Naomi Watts) and her husband, Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn). Joseph is sent to Niger upon recommendation from his wife in order to ascertain whether uranium is being sold to Iraq. Upon finding no evidence he makes his report, only to have George Bush go to war anyway and claims he received intelligence that a deal did go ahead. Understandably, this makes Joseph quite pissed, so he publishes an article stating that he in fact said the complete opposite, 'cause, you know, he did. So a member of the staff at the white House retaliates, uncovers Valerie's identity as a CIA operative attempting to criticise the government and effectively ruins her career.

The setup of this story, understandably, is quite long winded. Considering this was a movie about Valerie's struggle to seek justice and clear her and her husband's names, pretty much half the film was concerned with the events leading up to the publishing of the articles. Of course, it's essential to know the backstory, and in this case there was quite a lot to tell, but Fair Game seems to cut off quite prematurely, and leaves a major part of the plot to a sequence in the credits, which doesn't really bring closure to the story. If they couldn't have cut down some of the build up, they could have easily made the movie a bit longer in order to wrap everything up nicely. 

Despite this, Fair Game is a pretty good movie. Watts and Penn do great jobs in their respective roles, and although they seem a little bit boring in the beginning when they're just doing their jobs, as everything starts to fall apart they show some great emotion and play off each other quite well. The higher ups at the CIA that Valerie have to deal with all do well in their roles too, managing to stay quite detached from the movie itself, but always appear to be hanging around as a quite domineering presence.

That's probably the best thing about this movie. While it's marketed as a thriller, it doesn't have the generic scenes of the bad guys plotting on how to take down their prey. The focus is mainly on Valerie and Joseph, their reactions to what's happening and their relationship. There could easily have been a role cast for George Bush, but instead his part is portrayed solely in real footage of his press conferences, which adds a great sense of realism to the movie. The couple are shown watching and reacting to the exact same footage that was shown at the time, and while there is slight bias in the fact that we never see George Bush defend himself for what he said (if he did at all), it shows the effect that what he said during those press conferences affected the characters we're following in a profound way.

Fair Game is not your run-of-the-mill thriller. There are hardly any explosions, apart from the odd segments following a family in Iraq during the initial bombings, another great addition to help realise the effect that this war had on people. There are no car chases and no guns. It's a well-thought out and emotional thriller, dealing with the stresses that the US government placed on this couple, and how they attempted to fight against it and rise above it. It adds quite a personal touch to the abundance of information we were given when American went to war. I just wish it was a bit longer so they could have carried on the story to its full conclusion.

My rating: 4/5

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