February 7, 2011

Fair Game

Everyone from the Bush administration seems eager to set the record straight. Led by the former-President himself and Donald Rumsfeld, ex-VP Dick Cheney is also releasing his book later this year. In case one needs reminding of the shenanigans that went on during the Bush years, go see Fair Game.

Based on Valerie Plame's, and her husband Ambassador Joseph Wilson's memoirs, it stars Naomi Watts as the covert CIA operative outed by the government. Her husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) had written the New York Times op-ed piece "What I Didn't Find in Africa" that essentially said the Bushies had manipulated intelligence to rationalize the Iraqi invasion. I still remember my anger when Bush declared the unnecessary war. I also remember my outrage when Mrs. Wilson's cover was blown because her husband had exposed the truth that Iraq was not developing Weapons of Mass Destruction. All to discredit their family for daring to stand up to the administration.

We've seen enough movies about spies and their families, but they are mostly action-comedies. But this political thriller by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) paints a portrait of a real-life marriage almost torn apart by politics. Ms. Watts ably plays the wife and mother who also happens to be a spy. She struggles to balance home life with her high pressure job. When we think of spies, we picture James Bond. It was intriguing to see them as ordinary folk, having dinner parties, feeding their families, waiting for the sitter---the same humdrum issues that everyone has. Mr. Penn is the outspoken spouse, a former ambassador now struggling with his business ventures, who's also probably a little envious of his wife.

Once it was revealed she was a CIA agent, it was sad to see Valerie gradually realize that the government she has served has turned against her. She was still loyal to her job and country. But the 18-year veteran, adept and professional, known to be "unbreakable", finally breaks down at the thought of her crumbling marriage. Her husband is steadfast, angry, determined to make things right against an almighty foe: the White House. The performances are extraordinary. What's even more extraordinary? That it all happened.

Look out for guest appearances by Sam Shepard (as Valerie's father who helps her see the light), Ty Burrell, Jessica Hecht, Norbert Leo Butz, and Brooke Smith. They play the Wilsons' friends and highly-opinionated dinner companions.

The Iraqi family recruited by Mrs. Wilson, (which I read was fictional), are also victims of the dangerous lies perpetuated by the inner circle. Her exposure endangered many assets and agents. Who knows how widespread the repercussions were?

David Andrews plays Scooter Libby, indicted and convicted in the case but whose sentence was eventually commuted by President Bush. The all-too-common story of a marriage in crisis is made even more tragic by the conduct of politicians. One leaves the theater angry and indignant. No amount of history rewriting can erase that.

(Photo from IMP Awards)


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