Friday, April 15, 2011

Fair Game - DVD Review

ll 1/4

Starring Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Sam Shepard, Noah Emmerich, Michael Kelly, Bruce McGill, David Andrews, Jessica Hecht, Ty Burrell, Sonya Davison and Adam LeFevre. Directed by Doug Liman.

The first hour of this movie is a tight political thriller, concise, almost on par with All the President's Men. There's a "you are there" sense of urgency to the action, and considering director Doug Liman broke into the mainstream with The Bourne Identity, that's no surprise.

It's about the true story of Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame. Wilson debunked a lead that said Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger. The White House ignored his report, went forward with it as fact, and used it as another justification for the Iraq War. Later, when Wilson went public with his criticism of the administration, Plame was outed as a CIA agent.

The first point where the movie tips its hand is at David Andrews (Graveyard Shift) as Scooter Libby. As soon as Andrews enters the room, we know he's the villain. Not just the antagonist, the Villain. Libby seems to determined to twist whatever intelligence has been gathered to suit his purpose (and by proxy Dick Cheney's), and as soon as they're proven wrong on WMD's, he decides to change the story with Joe Wilson by outing his wife. Mwa ha ha.

Once the outing happens, the movie shifts its drama from taut to melo. Sean Penn ceases to be Joe Wilson and turns back into liberal activist Sean Penn, spouting and shouting about the Bush Administration. Wouldn't surprise me if he improvised most of his lines in the final third. I thought the first hour had set up the audience nicely (Libby aside) to make its own decisions, but no, some points have to be hammered home with Olbermann-esque "How DARE you, sir!" bluster, cheapening it.

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