It’s too little, too late – this attack on President George W. Bush’s ill-advised decision to attack Iraq on the basis of faulty intelligence indicating that Saddam Hussein not only possessed but was ready to launch weapons of mass destruction.
Despite its action-packed beginning in Kuala Lumpur, the story is set in Washington, D.C., where intrepid CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson (Naomi Watts) lives with her husband, retired ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), and two young children. While Plame flies around the globe to supervise secret missions, Wilson, a staunch Democrat, openly voices his mounting skepticism about Hussein’s ability to launch a nuclear war.
When the Agency hears that Iraq may be buying large amounts of ‘yellowcake’ (uranium) from Niger, diplomat Wilson, an expert on that tiny West African nation, is dispatched to investigate, concluding that a large-scale sale has not occurred, but the Bush administration deliberately misconstrues his report as yet another pretext for declaring war. Righteously indignant, Wilson writes a New York Times Op-Ed, refuting Bush’s decision. In retaliation, Bush’s furious advisor Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney’s sneaky chief-of-staff Scooter Libby leak Plame’s covert status to Washington Post columnist Robert Novak, thereby wrecking her promising career, discrediting Wilson’s allegations and endangering Plame’s cohorts and sources still trapped in Baghdad.
Scripted by brothers Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth from “The Politics of Truth” by Joseph Wilson and “Fair Game” by Valerie Plame Wilson, it’s dutifully directed by Doug Limon, who subtly reveals how the necessity for secrecy has taken its toll on the Wilson marriage which becomes emotionally strained almost to the breaking point. After working together in “21 Grams” and “The Assassination of Richard Nixon,” Watts and Penn have developed a convincing familiarity with one another. But there’s too much serious exposition and media strategy and too little suspense – and Limon’s incessant use of the haphazardly jiggling, hand-held camera increases the tedium.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Fair Game” is a sanctimonious 6, when it could have been a far-more effective expose of political malfeasance and corruption.