Directed by Doug Liman
Written by Jez & John-Henry Butterworth
Fair Game seems to have flown somewhat under the radar, both in its releases and in its reputation. This little film is directed by Doug Liman, who also directed such features as The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Swingers. It also stars Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts and Academy Award winner Sean Penn. The story, too, is relevant. It follows the controversial story of Valarie Plame (Naomi Watts), who is ousted as an undercover CIA agent when her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), writes a New York Times article claiming President Bush lied in his State of the Union address.
The film balances a nice portrait of a domestic drama, with a family that faces hardship from work and tension, and a taut political thriller. While it may not be as good as All the President’s Men before it (it even has an homage to the meeting on the park bench), Fair Game creates great tension and huge stakes mostly through talking heads. The event in question really happened and is something that is very important to the idea of democracy in this country. Unlike Green Zone earlier this year, oddly enough directed by Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass, Fair Game delivers a political commentary that focuses more on fact and less on action. It focuses on the wrongs of the government and what the American people can, and should, actually do about it.
Liman does a spectacular job at pacing the film and balancing the action at Langley and the action at home. The home life is important in the story as it humanizes these characters and gives them something more to fight for than just their names. They have children who have a future that they must defend. The acting is also good. Neither main role is overdone, though Penn flirts with the line as he always seems to, and Watts and Penn, playing an on screen couple for the third time, are believable as husband and wife. Also worth noting is David Andrews as Scooter Libby. He plays the “villain” very well and is featured in the best scene of the film, an interrogation that brings into question whether the actions of government are questionable or not. Are you 99% sure would you say?
The film works on the level that it is compelling, political thriller without much action at all. It works as a domestic drama in that the tension created between Plame and Wilson is believable, and important to the story. It works as a democratic message to the people of this country that injustice can be, should be, and must be fought (though they did maybe go a bit too far by explaining it to our face in the final scene). The Iraq war was and still is controversial. Fair Game is well scripted, well shot, well directed, and well acted. All around, it is one of the best films I have seen all year.