Fair Game,
directed by Doug Liman
(Summit, 2010)

Remember Joe Wilson, the man who called a U.S. President a liar?

No, I don't mean the congressman from South Carolina who shouted out a spontaneous "You Lie!" at President Barack Obama during the State of the Union address. I'm referring to Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson who wrote a New York Times editorial titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa" contradicting President George W. Bush regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Fair Game relates to the latter Joe Wilson (played by Sean Penn), who served as a diplomat in Africa during the 1990s and was asked to visit Niger prior to the Iraqi war to determine if there was yellowcake uranium there. Ambassador Wilson did not find the uranium on his visit, and when the President referred to the uranium being there, he wrote a contradiction.

As a result of that contradiction, Wilson's wife -- CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) -- was determined to be "fair game" by the Bush administration. Her cover was blown and the operations she engaged in were all scrapped, including getting Iraqi nuclear scientists who had been involved in Iraq's nuclear program before it was destroyed during a previous U.S. invasion and their families free from their war-torn country.

The film's a tightly paced combination spy thriller and domestic drama. On one hand, you see the front-page news of "Plamegate." Valerie is discredited and her career is dismantled. She goes from being a well-traveled agent with highly critical projects to a secretary or a "low-level flunky," depending on what you read.

On the other, you see the Wilson home life unraveling. The idealistic Joe is counterpointed strongly by his realistic wife as the country turns against them both. They receive countless threats, to the point of Valerie having to remove her children from their home.

This investigation resulted in the case, U.S. vs. Libby, in which Vice President Dick Cheney's aide Scooter Libby was tried on five federal felony counts. Libby was convicted on four of those charges, involving false statements, perjury and obstruction of justice, none of which related directly to the Plame revelation but rather to his failure to cooperate with the subsequent investigation into the revelation. Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a fine of $250,000. President Bush subsequently commuted Libby's sentence.

If you're interested in Wilson's memoirs, check out The Politics of Truth: A Diplomat's Memoir: Inside the Lies that Led to War & Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity.

review by
Becky Kyle

19 February 2011

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