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“Fair Game” Film Review Essay

Born in New York City in 1965, director Doug Liman is known for producing multiple things from the T.V series the “O.C” (very successful) to another T.V series that flopped in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith (which only aired the pilot). He is most known for his work with “The Bourne Identity” saga. Which leads us to one of his most recent works “Fair Game”. When talking about what particular “genre” this movie possessed, we will have to quote “IMDB” and use the words Biography, drama, and thriller. As Haas would protest when the controversial conversation would come up about if it fits the political “genre”. He would simply break movies into four categories, which fits into “Politically Reflective Films”, “Socially Reflective Films”, “Pure Political Films”, and “Auteur Political Films”. I would actually put this somewhere around the “Pure Political Film” category in my opinion. It opened in October 2010 and starred Naomi Watts (Valerie Plume), Sean Penn (Joe Wilson), and Sonya Davison (Chanel Suit). Watts is known for her busy career including movies like “21 grams”, and the two “Ring” movies.

Penn has been just as busy performing in classics such as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” to teaming up with Watts in “21 grams”. “Fair Game was nominated for 6 awards, taking home two victories. It was the 2010 “Best Narrative Feature” at the Mill Valley Festival Awards. It also claimed the “Freedom of Expression Award” at the National Board of Review. With top-notch actors, and an experienced aggressive director, “Fair Game” set out to become a memorable film and a must see. Did it succeed? Let me start critiquing the empirical (content) part of the film as mentioning the character Joseph Wilson, who served as a U.S ambassador to Gabon, San Tome, and Principe in previous duty. He was a diplomat with a very heavy opinion and was also very blunt. He was sent to Niger to investigate the situation of the White Houses suspicion that Iraq was buying Uranium from the African country for Nuclear power.

Wilson who was approached because his wife Valerie Plume was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency (who’s character we will get into later), accepted to her approval. As Wilson came back from his endeavor he heard the famous speech that Bush gave when he addressed the Union. He became very prideful and stubborn with what he knew. He simply thought that it was untrue in every way possible. He went on to submit a piece in the “New York Times” claiming these reports to be false. Not only does this strike outrage with his stance with the White House, but it puts his wife’s job in jeopardy. This ultimately causes his wife’s identity as a CIA officer to leak (only Wilson and parents knew before this). This puts an end to Valerie Plume’s operations in which she had been helping a family of 15 get out of Baghdad during war, which caused a great deal of stress and trust being broken.

Then both started receiving death threats and could not be seen in public without getting ambushed by reporters, taxi drivers, among others. The once happy marriage was being put to the test as Valerie takes the kids to her parent’s house searching for answers. Eventually as time passes by, Valerie realizes that he was right to fight the “wrong fight” (Valerie was also considered as “Fair Game” as one quote in the movie indicated.). She then proceeds to show up back at their home with a quote I loved from the dialogue, “Are you ready to fight?” Plume finally decides to back her husband and goes in front of congress to tell the truth and everything she knows about the situation. She says she does her best as a covert operational officer and it’s because she loves her job and her country. This ends with National Security adviser Scooter Libby being charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. One thing that I was appreciative of was the way director Doug Liman set the stage from the beginning in how he wanted you to portray this movie.

He took you into the behind the scenes of the White House after September 11, 2001. He showed you what kind of pressure was on not only the president and White House, but also all of the related institutions including the CIA. The biggest threat to America was Iraq and Suddam Hussein. As America eagerly waited a rebuttal or response from Bush and company, the president came up with a game plan. That game plan set the pitch for the rest of the movie. In justifying taking action against Hussein and Iraq, Bush addresses the State of the Union in 2003 alluding to Uranium’s use in building weapons of mass destruction. Was this true? This is only up to ones opinion at this time. My take on what a good movie needs to do is to ultimately grab the viewer right from the start. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Most audiences (which James Combs quotes “A film participates in a political time not in how it was intended, but how it was utilized by those who saw it.”) feel bored and robbed when movies sometimes do this, but it is necessary to get the full effect at the end.

“Fair Game” simply did a fairly decent job setting up the viewers by telling Valerie’s character story first, this makes most appreciate her, so it kind of puts you in her shoes when she awakes one day and her husband’s opinion is in the paper (something that would forever change her life). I like how it put my mind to a critical thinking stage. What would I do in her situation? This in my eyes makes a great film. There were also parts of the film that I did not care so much about and I will explain why. First if Iraq and Suddam Hussein were the main threats as terrorist to the United States, doesn’t that give us enough justice to go to war with them as it is? Why need to make up something about nuclear power (if that was the case) in order to get the ok. This is a true example of what I do not like about “biographies” that relate so much into the current events. Something to this nature (even though it is fiction) bothers me in the slightest.

The second thing was the story of Hammad and his 15 family members waiting to get to safe territories out of Baghdad because of Valerie’s word. It simply turns a huge story which kind of dominated most of the movie, into “Hammad and family are missing”. I was just hoping for a better conclusion to that story. This seemed to get the director to his main message no matter the case. Overall I believe the main point of this movie was to give you the overall behind the scenes look at the political side of things after a recent tragedy such as September 11, 2001. It shows you every angle that’s involved including the White House outlook to the CIA, to every one person being affected by these situations. It discusses that there are a ton of things that go on behind the scenes that not many people ever get to see.

Things like this beg you to ask the question every time there is a current event situation. Is it true? Along with discussing and analyzing it. The one thing you do not do is write a post to the newspaper questioning the president, because we all know (quote from movie said to Wilson “The White House men are the most powerful people in the world”.) how that ends up. My rating for this movie was 3 out of 4 stars. I enjoyed most of it, especially the plot.

I also thought the acting had a big affect on turning a good movie to something more. I enjoyed going back a few years and remembering exactly what I was doing during the time of these current events. Only a few nitpicks that I didn’t like which could’ve had my rating go even higher, which I discussed earlier. When suggesting this film to others, I would only recommend if politics were at a interest in you. If not the case, I could think of other films instead. I have friends that are both. I am going to conclude this review with a quote from the movie. Jack replies to Valerie when she is questioning his actions. I thought of it as being very deep, “Do you want to be loyal to your husband or to the CIA?”

The following were used as resources for my work:
1. IMDB.com
2. Political Matinee: Hollywood’s Take on American Politics, edited by Richard Herrera


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