Doug Liman’s “Fair Game,” based on books by Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson and starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, is unusually bold for a fictionalization based on real events. Using real names and a good many facts, it argues: Saddam Hussein had no WMD; the CIA knew it; the White House knew it; the agenda of Cheney and his White House neocons required an invasion of Iraq no matter what, and therefore, the evidence was ignored and we went to war because of phony claims.
That’s what the film says. There will no doubt be dissent. Few people are happy to be portrayed as liars and betrayers. What’s effective is how matter-of-fact “Fair Game” is. This isn’t a lathering, angry attack picture. Wilson and Plame are both seen as loyal government employees, not particularly political until they discover the wrong information. The implication is that if the Bush administration hadn’t suppressed their information and smeared them, there might have been no Iraq war, and untold thousands of lives would have been saved.
One interesting element in the movie’s version is the cluelessness of George W. Bush. In this version, it’s possible he didn’t fully realize how flawed his information on Niger was. The svengali is Cheney. That’s the collective narrative that emerges from a group of similar films, like Rod Lurie’s “Nothing But the Truth”. The implication was that he wanted Scooter pardoned because Scooter was acting on his orders. It’s unlikely Scooter would have been acting on his own.
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times
Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Ashley Gerasimovich, Brooke Smith, Bruce McGill, David Denman, Michael Kelly, Ty Burrell