Fair Game (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/03/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 108 mins

Fair Game is engaging, provocative and superbly acted, but it takes too long to get going and the true story is so gripping that you occasionally find yourself wondering if it might have been better served by a documentary.

What's it all about?
Directed by Doug Liman, Fair Game is based on a true story and stars Naomi Watts as high-level covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, who's tasked with intelligence-gathering with regard to Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons programme in the wake of 9/11. Meanwhile, her husband, former diplomat Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), is sent to Niger to investigate claims of 'yellowcake' uranium sales, but finds no evidence.

However, when the US later invades Iraq, Wilson realises his report was distorted in order to provide an excuse for the war and he writes an angry letter to the New York Times. A week later, the Washington Post reveals Valerie's identity as a covert CIA agent, jeopardising the safety of her contacts abroad and effectively ending her career; Wilson and Plame both believe that she was outed in direct retaliation for Joe's actions and the pair have to decide just how far they're willing to speak out against the government.

The Good
Watts is superb as Valerie, delivering a complex performance that balances her pride in the job she clearly loved with her anger at the government's betrayal and her growing resentment towards her husband, even though he did the right thing. Penn is equally good and it's to the script's credit that he's not painted in an entirely sympathetic light, with his own pride and righteous anger eventually doing more harm than good.

The detailed script does an excellent job of conveying the sense of injustice and frustration at the heart of the story, particularly when the media picks up the story and, incredibly, chooses the wrong side, turning against Valerie and Joe and hounding them instead of fighting their corner.

The Bad
That's not to say the film is without problems - for one thing it takes ages to get going, spending much longer than necessary in showing how good Valerie is at her job (i.e. it introduces you to several of her foreign contacts when one example would have been enough). Similarly, the true story behind the film is so fascinating that you find yourself wanting to hear from the real people involved and wondering if the film might have worked better as a documentary.

Worth seeing?
Fair Game is a well made, provocative and ultimately rage-inducing drama with terrific performances from Sean Penn and Naomi Watts. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 21/11/2019 06:11

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