If being the mother of young twins and managing a marriage isn’t enough to balance; add being an international, covert CIA agent. The story becomes even more tortuous when Valerie’s cover is blown and her family and friends are stunned and hurt to realize she has been deceptively living a double-life. But this is the least of her problems, with her identity publicized she, and her contacts, are now in mortal danger.
Valerie’s life story plays out like a highly fictionalized and glamorous female 007 character. However, what is so gripping about the film, Fair Game, is that it is based on a true story and Valerie is a real person. The film is a compilation of her memoir, Fair Game, and her husband’s memoir. The old adage, “truth is stranger than fiction,” has never been more appropriate when discussing a film.
Valerie (played by Naomi Watts) and her husband, Joseph Wilson (played by Sean Penn) are simultaneous ordinary parents and extraordinary professionals. The duplicity of their lives is riveting and is reminiscent of the film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, starring Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie, but the fact that this film is based on real people and real events makes it all the more captivating and engrossing.
The story takes place during the George W. Bush administration when Plame was outed due to the revelations made by her husband, Joseph Wilson, in his New York Times article, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa.” His findings on a trip to Niger did not support a nuclear weapons link to Suddam Hussein and Bush’s escalation of an Iraq war. As a consequence, or perhaps as retribution, Plame’s CIA cover was leaked (the leaks resulted in “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff (played by David Andrews), being convicted on charges of obstruction of justice).
The film, directed by Doug Linman and written by brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth is entertaining, but at times bumpy and confusing. A little reference reading on the topic of Plame and Wilson before the film may help keep the viewer on top of the plot. There are a lot of political references and discussions on nuclear material that are not in the common vernacular or general knowledge. After the watching the movie twice I felt I had a clearer grasp on the characters and the multiple plotlines moving within the film. Don’t leave the movie to go to the bathroom is my advice.
The acting is well done by Watts and Penn, and the scenes are energetic and well-paced. At times it is difficult to follow, but it is a layered, complex story. However, it is a fascinating tale of government corruption, international intrigue and the rocky inner-mechanics of a powerful marriage.