In 2003, one of the more notorious scandals of the George W. Bush administration broke into the mainstream when the Washington Post published the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. The leak suspiciously followed a New York Times article written by Plame's husband and former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson, in which he criticized the White House for manipulating facts to make a case for invading Iraq. Wilson proceeded to lambast the government via the national media, saying the White House deliberately leaked his wife's identity as revenge for his editorial piece - and to distract from the truth.
In the 2010 political thriller Fair Game, Doug Liman, the director of The Bourne Identity, Naomi Watts and Sean Penn star as the aforementioned couple. Despite the talent involved and the picture's overall marketability, Fair Game has so far only garnered a limited release and minimal buzz. Still, it is one of the best movies released thus far in 2010.
Based on books by Plame and Wilson, Fair Game is an intense, powerful thriller that kicks the emotional hornet's nest that has laid dormant since Bush left office. At once a political thriller and a critical look at the power imbalance between the U.S. government and ordinary citizens, Fair Game is one of the few must-see movies in theaters today.
The movie succeeds largely on the emotionally charged and passionate performances by Watts and Penn. Strangely, there's been little buzz about their performances in award circles, despite a lack of clear competition. Both deliver some of their most understated and yet finest performances to date.
The supporting cast is also excellent. David Andrews is especially good as Scooter Libby, the "bad guy" in the movie.
Fair Game is one of the best movies of 2010, which makes it all the more shocking that it's receiving so little buzz. The biggest criticism the film has received is that it doesn't find the right balance as both a political thriller and a drama, but that's really not a problem. The movie is intense throughout and, even though most people [should] know how it ends, it keeps you on the edge of your seat in a way few "real life" spy thrillers can. Liman isn't known as a revolutionary director, and despite everything Fair Game isn't revolutionary, but it is a masterful piece of work that deserves more recognition than it's receiving.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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