A covert officer in the CIA's counter-proliferation department, Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) discovers that, contrary to the belief of many in the U.S. government, Iraq has no active nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, Valerie's Foreign Service diplomat husband Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn) is sent to Africa (2003) to investigate rumours of possible sales of enriched uranium to Iraq. Finding no such deals, Joe writes an article for New York Times outlining his conclusions, igniting a firestorm of controversy. Soon Valerie's top-secret identity is leaked to high-profile Washington journalists. With her cover blown and her overseas contacts left vulnerable, Valerie is pushed to the breaking point as her career and private life collapse. After 18 years serving the government, Valerie - a mother, a wife and a field officer with an impeccable record - now struggles to save her reputation, her career and her marriage.
Review by Louise Keller:
Politics, integrity, the media and the truth are at odds in this gripping portrayal of a covert CIA agent whose identity is leaked as payback for her husband's exposure of White House distortions. Adapted from books by Valerie Plame Wilson and her former Ambassador husband Joseph Wilson, while this true story sheds an engrossing and somewhat unflattering spotlight on the George W. Bush administration viz Saddam Hussein's WMDs, it is the turbulent personal story that grabs our attention. At times it's hard to keep up with who's who in the political arena, but there's no mistaking the emotional stakes when it comes to the central relationship and Naomi Watts and Sean Penn are perfectly cast.
In the lead-up to the Iraq war, the action begins in the corridors of power, when Naomi Watt's Valerie is appointed leader of the CIA's Joint Task Force on Iraq. As she trips around the world in her professional capacity, it is the post-it notes on the fridge that tell of the family management chaos, as Valerie and Joe (Sean Penn) juggle child care and domestics. Robust conversations at dinner parties with their opinionated friends (who have no idea Valerie is a spy) are some of the film's best moments. Joe doesn't suffer fools gladly, nor does he condone 'mistruths' ('Democracy is not a free ride'), as the semblance of a 'normal family life' is at odds with reality.
The traction comes from the relationship tension, with the most important conversations taking place at the children's playground or in the kitchen. Although Valerie insists 'You have to know why you're lying; never forget the truth', she and Joe have an opposing view when it comes to voicing the truth, irrespective of the consequences. A mix of political thriller and relationship drama, the most disturbing part about this story is the implication that 'True Lies' are part of the fabric in which we live.
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FAIR GAME. (M)
CAST: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Ty Burrell, Sam Shepard, Bruce McGill, Noah Emmerich, Brooke Smith, David Denman, Iris Bahr
PRODUCER: Jez Butterworth, Akiva Goldsman, Doug Liman, Janet Zucker, Jerry Zucker
DIRECTOR: Doug Liman
SCRIPT: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth (book Fair Game by Valerie Plame; book The Politics of Truth by Joseph Wilson)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Doug Liman
EDITOR: Christopher Tellefsen
MUSIC: John Powell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jess Gonchor
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 25, 2010