Fair Game Reviews

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Super Reviewer
September 16, 2013
During the run-up to the Second Iraq War, the Bush Administration released the name of a CIA agent whose husband was critical of Bush's "evidence."
Naomi Watts and Sean Penn deliver very strong performances as Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson. Watts is believable in her vulnerable scenes, reeling from the Bush Administration's treason, and Penn brings his natural intensity to his portrayal of Joe Wilson. Both in terms of the film and the actual events, I wondered why (or why not) the Wilsons never discussed the article that led to Valerie's betrayal. Regardless of the film's reliance on actual events, the story proceeds predictably, complete with the inspirational visit to Valerie's father who dispenses age-old wisdom. The story of the Iraqi scientists is also incomplete.
Overall, carried by strong leading performances, Fair Game is not as polemic as it could be and follows a rather predictable path.
The Gandiman
Super Reviewer
December 23, 2012
"Fair Game" is not as engrossing as it should be considering its subject matter and pedigree.
Super Reviewer
½ March 20, 2012
I am NOT a political movie fan. However, this movie was extremely interesting. This would have been a fantastic movie even if it was fiction. But, what made this story frightening is that it was true. I remember the 2003 pre-Iraq invasion media blitz to bolster public support for the war. The real-life characters in this film, heroes, dared to speak the truth about the Iraq situation in an environment of blind frenzy disguised as patriotism. The tragic story of Joe and Valerie Wilson is amazing. The movie does a fantastic job of telling their story, and showing the emotional distress, that this moment of national shame caused the Wilsons. I only wish that I could have rewritten the ending...as that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby were sent to jail for life for treason!
Super Reviewer
March 28, 2011
A fantastic political thriller type film that features great performances from Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, but it moves a little too slowly in parts, and gives no real depth to the characters. This film is brimming with anger, which is compelling, and the performances are brilliant which is what drives the film. Overall, Fair Game is an above average political thriller/biopic that deserved more attention.
Super Reviewer
January 5, 2012
Fair Game is a well produced op ed page, as if written by the film's protagonist, disgruntled diplomat Joe Wilson (Sean Penn). Director Liman has made the flick diverting enough, with a great cast. However, it treats it's protagonists with kid gloves,and doesn't delve into their personal lives as deeply as it should. The most interesting aspects of the story are submerged in favour of a strident condemnation and expose of the Bush White house (certainly a worthy goal, but not the most worthy film material).

WIlson is an ex diplomat who is assiged by his CIA spy wife (Naomi Watts, solid as usual) to investigate whether Saddam has ordered uranium in Africa for his supposed WMDs. When the verdict is negative, Wilson is shocked when Bush makes the discredited allegation on national TV, launching the war in Iraq. He writes an Op Ed piece in the NY Times about it and then both he and his wife are discredited, but her career at the CIA is destroyed.

The movie avoids going into very much emotional detail about the strains on the Wilsons' marriage, and any moral qualms that Wilson may have about what his self-righteous actions to hurt his family. That's the movie I would have liked to see. Still, it's got plenty going for it, and it's one of the more watchable Iraq films, all of which have been huge box office flops except Hurt Locker. Why is that?
Super Reviewer
August 20, 2011
Based on true story. It's a political drama about a CIA agent who is outer after investigating weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after 9/11. Slow moving. Requires a lot of thought.
Super Reviewer
½ June 24, 2011
"Wife. Mother. Spy."

CIA operative Valerie Plame discovers her identity is allegedly leaked by the government as payback for an op-ed article her husband wrote criticizing the Bush administration.

"Fair Game" is a taut, no-nonsense account of the outing of a CIA agent in the wake of 9/11 after she led an investigation that found no evidence of a weapons program in Iraq despite the White House's use of that threat as the basis for its invasion.

Naomi Watts plays Plame and Sean Penn plays Joe Wilson, Plame's husband and a former ambassador who came forward in the media about the bullying and corruption his family was being exposed to. Both give fierce, committed performances; in their hands, the film is as much a portrait of a marriage under stress as it is a rally cry against government irresponsibility and abuse.

"Fair Game" is not fair at all. It's at times almost ridiculously one sided, falling into hero worship of Plame and Wilson and demonizing the Bush administration (and particularly Scooter Libby and Karl Rove) to the point of caricature. But as always with "one against the government" stories, practically all we've heard about this controversy both as it played out at the time and since is what the government and the media have wanted us to hear, so it's refreshing to be one-sided in the opposite direction for a couple of hours.
Super Reviewer
½ May 20, 2011
I want it come to the end fast as possible, it was so boring, they said it's a true events, I say there is no need to make a movie out of it
Super Reviewer
November 17, 2010
Wife. Mother. Spy.

This movie which is very political and intelligent didn't really impress me that much. It is very well made thus it bored me and didn't really move me in any way. Naomi Watts gives a a spellbinding performance as well as Sean Penn.

Valerie Plame is employed by the Central Intelligence Agency, a fact known outside the agency to no one except her husband and parents. She is an agent involved in a number of sensitive and sometimes dangerous covert operations overseas.

Her husband, Joseph C. Wilson, is a diplomat who most recently has served as a U.S. ambassador to Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe. Due to his extensive background, Wilson is approached by Plame's CIA colleagues to travel to Niger and glean information as to whether yellowcake uranium is being procured by Iraq for use in the construction of nuclear weasons. Wilson determines to his own satisfaction that it is not.

After military action is taken by George W. Bush, who justifies it in a 2003 State of the Union address by alluding to the uranium's use in building weapons of mass destruction, Wilson submits an op-ed piece to the New York Times claiming these reports to be categorically untrue.

Plame's status as a CIA agent is subsequently revealed in the media, the leak possibly coming from White House officials including the Vice President's chief of staff and national security adviser, Scooter Libby, in part to discredit her husband's allegation that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. As a result, Plame is instantly dismissed from the agency, leaving several of her delicate operations in limbo and creating a rift in her marriage.

Plame leaves her husband, further angered by his granting of television and print interviews, which expose them both to public condemnation and death threats. Wilson ultimately persuades her, however, that there is no other way to fight a power as great as that of the White House for citizens like them. Plame returns to him and testifies before a Congressional committee, while Libby is convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice and given a 30-month prison sentence, although President Bush commutes the jail time on Libby's behalf.
Super Reviewer
½ November 18, 2010
Director Doug Liman firmly tackles real-world spies and controversial recent history. In the vein of 1970s conspiracy potboilers, this persuasively authentic drama may seem to be a round-about assault upon the "weapons of mass destruction" mess, if you don't recall what happened to lead character, Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) in real life. As Fair Game depicts, the CIA agent was outed by a newspaper, seemingly in retaliation against the criticism her husband Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) leveled at the Bush administration. The real protagonists of Liman's frank procedural were heavily involved in its formation, but most bias is doused beneath cold facts. While well earned, the swing from the political, to the personal, saps some of the sting.
However, the second half isn't as adroit as its info-heavy precursor. Working together for the third time, Watts and Penn share a nuanced rapport which helps us stay the course when the John-Henry Butterworth's back-off from dissecting the extremely different reactions of a besieged wife and husband.
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2011
I loaned this to my Dad and he refused to watch it once he read what it was about and that it starred Sean Penn. Now, I'm not a bleeding heart liberal(no matter what my friend Billy says), but I definitely sway more liberal than conservative. This moving leans way more left than right, but the story is geared that way. Whether or not it's all accurate to what really happened is up for debate, but the movie is engaging enough to make you not care. Penn and Watts give great performances in a film that could have been very boring, and parts of it are, but they keep you interested to the end. As far as political thrillers go, this is top notch. Not for everyone, but watch it with an open mind and you will probably get caught up in the acting. No matter your political affiliation, you will probably be entertained if you want an intelligent thriller that asks tough questions that don't always present easy answers.
Super Reviewer
November 7, 2010
Engrossing political thriller in the vein of State of Play and Syriana, with an impressive cast led by the always excellent Naomi Watts and legendary actor Sean Penn. Interesting account of the post-9/11 period leading to the Iraq war explores issues of paranoia, misinformation and national security. Riveting performances and a brisk pace allowed me to enjoy this film, even though I didn't fully understand all the legal and governmental mumbo-jumbo.
Super Reviewer
April 6, 2011
I'm not a big fan of Sean Penn and this movie gives me even more reason to dislike him and his acting. He plays a complete dick who pretty much throws his wife under the bus. The director Doug Liman goes out of his way to discredit the bush administration. My question will he do the same to the present warlord Obama. Still my comments aside it might be enjoyed by some. 3 stars
Super Reviewer
½ March 28, 2011
Tight and well-paced thriller, filled with suspense and intelligent dialogue. Right from the get-go the story hooked me in, and held my full attention until the very last minute. The writing is crisp and the turn of events quite exhilarating. All the things you could ask for in a movie like this. And with talented thespians like Sean Penn and Naomi watts, it adds up to a viewing that oozes quality all over.
Super Reviewer
½ June 18, 2010
"When did the question move from 'Why are we going to war?' to 'Who is this man's wife?'"

Fair Game takes the huge media storm of a few years ago surrounding the leaked identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, and focuses on the strain placed on her and her family by the intentional exposure of her identity by government officials in retaliation for her husband's infamous New York Times op-ed piece.

Movies based on actual, heavily politically-based events usually aren't my thing, but Naomi Watts as Valerie and Sean Penn as her husband really do an excellent job of conveying this serious, and at times troubling, story. Watts portrays Plame as an intelligent and capable woman who is easy to sympathize with. As she's effectively blocked out from her job at the C.I.A. and her personal life begins to swiftly unravel, she keeps a steely resolve that's wholly believable. And while Sean Penn doesn't have to stretch far for his character, he also makes him feel like a genuine person. Great acting from them both to compliment the solid script.

Anyone even casually interested in the Valerie Plame scandal should check this out, as it's a pretty darn good (and thought-provoking) adaptation of a dark time in our country's recent history.
Super Reviewer
½ March 30, 2011
One of the biggest mysteries of the the 2010 film year is that Naomi Watts was completely overlooked. Watts had a trio of tremendous performances that year, with Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child," Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," and Doug Liman's "Fair Game." In "Fair Game" she plays real life former CIA agent Valerie Plame along side Sean Penn as Plame's husband Joe Wilson. These two actors bring to life the twisty story of actual government lies and the wrongful exposure of Plame as a spy. "Fair Game" is as good and just as important as the 1979 classic "All the President's Men." And like Alan J. Pakula's Best Picture winner, "Fair Game" is not some leftish, propaganda piece. "Fair Game" promotes logical thought and holding people responsible for their actions, even if those people run the country with which you live. "Fair Game" works as a political thriller, historical docudrama and commentary on the lethal combination of media and government- which is an extremely important issue. The film itself is well written (based off the books Wilson and Plame penned after the events) with snappy dialogue and well directed by Liman (who also shoots the film himself). Watts and Penn are terrific here as well, proving time and again they have what it takes to be some of this generations best performers. "Fair Game" is an important, even handed and thrilling recreation. A damn fine film.

If you like "Fair Game" definitely check out Rob Lurie's fictionalized take on these events in the film "Nothing But the Truth." It might be a fake story, but it's an incredible film in it's own right.
Super Reviewer
½ March 23, 2011
The anger brimming over the screenplay is palpable. The movie superbly tackled the meaning of critical analysis on both media and the upper echelon's dissemination of intelligence and the fraction of truth covered by thick shells of exaggeration, misleading truths and the false consciousness it does to people. Some may see right through and the script depicted the action of that someone who challenges that intelligence even if the one on the other side of the ring is a behemoth that controls our false consciousness. That being said, the line between a biopic and political fiction is completely blurred by the brimming but justifiable anger the script has. A unique David and Goliath confrontation in this age of information that needs to be watched.
Super Reviewer
½ February 15, 2011
That US has a tendency to attack the oil-rich countries by making false claims is a foregone fact. I don't need a movie to tell me that, but the movie explores that area very aptly. Okay, Saddam was a monster and needed to be removed, but it doesn't have to be in such a disastrous way as adopted by US. However, I didn't understand why those scientists were kept under surveillance and forced to remain on their respective posts (failure to which would result in obstructing their family's survival) for so many years if they were not involved in the making of WMD. If the potentiality of that program was destroyed years ago, for whom were these scientists working? Or did they really part their ways after their leader was executed in the 90s? 'Where The Truth Lies' (which is already used by Atom Egoyan for his stupendous 2005 thriller flick starring Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth) would have been more suitable title for this movie.
Super Reviewer
November 30, 2010
i assume people who go to theater for this movie probably have read books like disaster capitalism by naomi klein or all the other books about the conspiracies of globalization and how some powerful western governments try to team up with rich capitalists to profit from wars, riots and natural disasters. sometimes to make one war is also under the agenda. if you read any of those books, fair game is like a blatant illustrations of what you already knew pretty well. or if you see it and like it, it means you accept the education which is similar with the messages from those leftist-sympatized books conveyed in a more tangible and populist manner.

to me, this movie is like 2010 wall street, which just collects the has-beens and has-happeneds to pastiche into a picture to sell and retell the inside story over and over again to educate the audience about the truth which will never change the world. come on, war against iraque almost comes to an end (has it?), and bush is no longer president. so what's the point? he's eaten the cake and held as much power as he could for 8 years, and he's retired. so what could it possibly harm him or make a differences to all the damages done? same as cheney. the previledged still remains safe and sound and the deprived is still struggling. and watching a 88-min political movie could better off the world and keep the strong from bullying the weak? in the moment you could publicly discuss some once-controversial political or racist issue, it means it's already in the past and whatever you said won't make a difference. fair game is released in 2010, one decade after the 911, does that mean regrets over iraque is a popular topic now?
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
November 29, 2010
"Fair Game" is a movie for grown-ups. That of course means that no one will go see it. Since the 21st century began, adults have completely lost interest in films made for grown-ups. They only want to see movies made for children and teenagers. If there's no adolescent quality to the movie, adults won't touch it.

This is sad because "Fair Game" is one of the best American films of the year, and watching it is a thrilling experience. It tells the true story of Valerie Plame, the covert CIA officer whose life was endangered when her cover was blown by senior officials in the Bush Administration. The film is intelligent and serious but also fast-moving and dramatic. Naomi Watts portrays Ms. Plame, and Sean Penn plays her husband. Both provide under-stated, highly realistic performances that bring the Plame family to life in a vibrant way. The film gets slightly preachy at the end, but for the most part it is level-headed and fair, letting the facts speak for themselves.

Part of why "Fair Game" works so well is that the director, Doug Liman, is an expert in edge-of-your-seat drama. His previous films include "The Bourne Identity" (2002) and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (2005). Here he brings all those entertainment talents to bear on a serious drama. The selection of Liman as director was an inspired choice on the part of the producers.

In addition to learning about the political ruthlessness of Washington, the viewer of "Fair Game" gets an unprecedented lesson in how the CIA functions. This is not only important, it surprisingly also is gripping cinema. I've always wondered what it must be like to work there, and what kinds of secrecy people live under. As an example, Plame's family (her husband and her parents) know that she works at the CIA, but that's all they know. They have no idea what she actually does. When she goes on international travel, which is often, she lies to her husband and says she's going to a city in the United States. Her friends are even more in the dark. They think she works at a venture capital outfit. When Plame is "outed" in the national media, it is fascinating to watch her friends confront her with their jaws hanging open. "Valerie, it says in the paper that you work for the CIA." One of them also asks in a frightened voice, "Have you killed people?" Plame comes clean about being a CIA officer for almost 20 years, but does not give them any more information.

Another aspect of the CIA life that is particularly tough is the knowledge that if your cover is blown, your entire family is in danger. As the mother of two small children, Plame knows this better than anyone. "Fair Game" doesn't get emotionally manipulative with regard to Plame's children, but it reminds us many times that Plame is a mother. Their safety cuts to the heart of what makes this Washington "scandal" so disturbing. "Fair Game" is must-see viewing for anyone who cares about current events and anyone who enjoys great movies.
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