FairGame (2010) dir. Doug Liman
Starring: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Bruce McGill and Sam Shepard
By Greg Klymkiw
Politicians, our purported leaders, cannot be trusted. As instruments for the New World Order, they're out for themselves and their cronies. Even worse are the bureaucrats, administrators and snivelling minions below them - they're bigger whores than the elected officials since they do what their leaders want them to do either intentionally, or pathetically, because they're too stupid to know any better.
The cheapest whores of them all are the media. They're bought and paid for with junkets and dreams of exclusivity. It's a vicious circle wherein the losers are the very few amongst the aforementioned power brokers who actually want to do the right thing.
Such is the world of Fair Game, a terrific new fact-based political thriller by the estimable director Doug (Go, Swingers, The Bourne Identity) Liman.
In the tradition of such fine thrillers as The Parallax View, All the President's Men (both by Alan J. Pakula) and the best Costa-Gavras works such as Missing, Z and State of Siege, Liman's film uncovers one of the more regrettable (of the infinite) acts of deceit perpetrated by the American government against both its own people and the rest of the world.
Telling the story of former undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) and her husband Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), the former U.S. ambassador to Niger, the film is set against the backdrop of the Bush administration as it seeks evidence that Iraq possesses Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Plame works to get Iraqis to speak the truth and in return promises anonymity and protection. Her bosses want someone to get evidence, but through more diplomatic channels. The bosses ask Plame to write an assessment and recommendation that Joe, her husband, is the right man for the job.
Needless to say, there are NO weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration chooses to ignore the espionage work by the husband and wife who risk their own lives and the lives of others to get this information.
When an irate Joe runs an op-ed piece in the New York Times that expresses his frustration and calls the American administration bald-faced liars, Bush and his sleazebag, knee-pad-adorned bureaucrats - along with the media - tar and feather Joe and his wife. Valerie remains stoic while Joe becomes openly hostile and critical towards the Bush administration.
Liman nicely balances the public and private, the political and the thriller and straight up delivers a maddening expose of a lie perpetrated by those who can't be trusted and how weasel bureaucrats deflect their fibbing and incompetence onto those who can ill-afford to withstand such an assault.
Those whom they deem expendable become the "fair game" of the title.
In reality, though, it's more than the handful of innocents who become "fair game", it's the electorate, the nation, the world as a whole who join the club of the expendables.
Both Penn and Watts sizzle in their roles and receive able support - notably from Sam Shepard as Plame's father and the fabulous character actor Bruce McGill. Liman surrounds all of them with his taut mise-en-scene which he not only directs, but photographs as well.
Watching the film will frustrate you and make you angry as hell. The exemplary filmmaking is so first-rate in clearly and simply illustrating how elected officials and their handpicked toadies in the administration and media are bald-faced incompetents, bearing little or no regard for the principles they've been chosen to uphold, but instead wade in a vat of their own fecal matter to cover their individual and collective sphincters.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my punditry for today.
Wolf Blitzer, move over.
"Fair Game" is currently in theatrical release via E1 Entertainment in Canada.