PASS THE POPCORN: Dangerous ‘Games’

by Staff

By David Dixon, Staff Writer

Just because Election Day has come and gone, it doesn’t mean political intrigue is gone from the big screen. “Fair Game” is the true story of how a CIA agent is forced to deal with her own personal crisis in public.

The thriller is divided into two parts that take place in the last decade. During the first half, spy Valerie Plame (Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts) is sent on a mission to Iraq to find out if Saddam Hussein is stockpiling materials to create weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, Valerie’s husband, diplomat and former ambassador Joseph Wilson (two-time Academy Award winner Sean Penn) is asked by the CIA to see if men in Niger sold yellowcake uranium to Iraq. After interviewing experts, Joseph says no such deal took place. Despite this, President George W. Bush publicly states Iraq was in control of WMD. Outraged, Joseph writes an article in The New York Times, criticizing Bush’s actions.

Part two opens with Joseph showing Valerie a horrifying piece from The Washington Post entitled, “Mission to Niger”; where op-ed columnist Robert Novak reveals Valere’s identity as a secret agent. The rest of the film revolves around Valerie and Joseph trying to escape false accusations, death threats and marital strife.

Based on Plame and Wilson’s memoirs, “Fair Game” requires concentration. The first half is full of complicated dialogue and plot revelations, while the second half is an emotional, yet easier to follow, roller coaster. The events focus less on politics, and more on the relationship of an empathetic duo.

While Doug Liman has directed films about fictional CIA agents before (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “The Bourne Identity”), this is his most realistic adventure. Unlike his other action-packed movies, the suspense comes from the intense dialogue written by brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth.

Watts and Penn get into the skin of their real-life counterparts. Watts gives a natural performance as a woman full of confidence and cunning intelligence. Penn is just as strong, depicting a man who is as devoted to politics as he is to his wife and children. The two have playful chemistry early on, but when things take a turn for the worse, Penn and Watts have several powerful scenes that show how scandal almost destroyed their relationship.

“Fair Game” is a humane look into a case of unjust political maneuvering. Though audience members might get upset with how a flawed system treats Valerie, they will enjoy getting to know the unique couple and their tale.

Movie: Fair Game

Directed by: Doug Liman

Release Date: Nov. 5

Grade: A-