Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#189: Fair Game

As an outsider after watching a movie like Fair Game, one can't help but admire the liberty filmmakers in Hollywood have to base their movies around true incidents. Even if they involve the highest echelons of authority. It is near inconceivable that we would ever make a movie in India about collusion of Congress leaders during the 84 riots or for that matter the involvement of the BJP state administration during the Gujarat riots. It is as if all the controversial matters in India are perennially sub-judice or too above board to be touched by the anyone from the film industry. In the 2010 release Fair Game, questions are repeatedly asked about the intelligence follies leading up to the conclusion that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. The freedom with which names like Dick Cheney and President Bush are thrown around in the movie makes you really think if there'll ever be such a time a India when a filmmaker won't have to worry about his movie posters being torn outside theaters or seeing his prints burned in the public.

The protagonist of Fair Game is Naomi Watts who plays Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative assigned to confirm or deny the presence of WMD in Iraq. No sooner has she begun her assignment that she finds her office very regularly surrounded by men from the Bush administration. These are men from very high up in the seat of power and men who don't want to listen a 'No' to the question of whether WMD existed in Iraq. Plame, a straightforward analytical operative wouldn't take any sides until she is absolutely sure in her head about the answer. At great risks to her life, she presents a strong case that there is no proof of WMD in Iraq. Plame even enlists the help of her husband, retired diplomat Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) who becomes one of the first persons to corroborate her hypothesis, Plame's answer is not as per the tune the administration is singing to the Senate in ill-conceived moments of verbal bravado led by none other than President Bush. When they try to reason with the White House, Val and Joe become victims of a state crusade that questions their credibility. It is an attack on their very existence and hurts them deeply. How far will they go in their quest for their truth? Fair Game provides the answer.

Based on the memoirs of Valerie Plame, Fair Game brings to us the trials and tribulations that the two undergo in their fight for truth against a mighty White House. Naomi Watts is bustling with energy and spunk in her role that places her as the lead. She is forthright and a mix of pure love for her family's and passion for the work she does at Langley. It is not very often that Sean Penn plays second fiddle but the movie shows how it comes so easy to him. While the two were very good in their characterizations, what seemed missing was the husband-wife relationship chemistry that somehow never came to the fore. Director Doug Liman wants us to know that this is a time when the two nearly uprooted their family and went through some of the most difficult times. He succeeds but not so much as Rod Lurie did with Nothing but the Truth, a movie made in 2008 also based on a similar theme.

Valerie Plame had a very strong story to tell and the fact that it made it to screen unscathed is quite commendable. That it had an A-list lead cast performing, even more so. The only thing that just didn't seem to cut ice for me was the screenplay that was littered with too many characters that loosened the grip from time to time during the movie. There were too many faces that were being thrown at us as the face of the antagonist and all of them put together didn't quite have the desired telling effect that would've made us empathize fully with the Valerie Plame. It is also unlikely that any two other actors could've done a better job. It boiled down to how tight a story the writers wanted us to have. Barring that, this is very much a story told well and one that deserves to be seen.

Rating: 6.9/10


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