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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Naomi Watts
Sean Penn
Ty Burrell.
Directors
Screenwriters
Jez Butterworth
John-Henry Butterworth.
Running Time
108 minutes

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Fair Game
No, not the Cindy Crawford one...


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Plot
In 2002, the CIA sends former ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) to Niger to investigate a possible sale of uranium to Saddam Hussein. Wilson reports that the sale didn't happen, and publicly protests when President Bush persists in using it as a justification for his Iraq War. Then news leak outs Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), is a CIA agent.


Review
Fair Game
Though Paul Greengrass took over for the sequels, Doug Liman directed The Bourne Identity, and is thus responsible for the current state of the espionage thriller. This is a companion-piece to Greengrass’ Green Zone, applying the style of Robert Ludlum conspiracy nonsense to the all-too-true hash of the Iraq War where, in these films at least, the reasoned, pragmatic, surprisingly sensible advice of the CIA was junked by rabid administration hawks in a scramble to find an excuse to blast Saddam Hussein.

Fair Game — blandly using a title from half a dozen other movies — is about the odd affair of The Ambassador, his wife The Spy and The White House Fixer. Given that the spat was mostly expressed in newspaper op-ed pieces and registered as a footnote to the greater farce of the search for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, Liman and screenwriter Jez Butterworth have to explain abstruse circumstances and ground them in human drama. Valerie (Naomi Watts) is seen in the field, making and manipulating contacts, then as a working suburban wife and mother with a distinguished but at-a-loose-end husband (Sean Penn). When her real job is publicly revealed, it causes chaos in her social and married life… but there are dark hints of a body-count around the world as her cases are dropped or mishandled (a list of Iraqi nuclear scientists she hopes to recruit is passed on to Mossad, who assassinate them instead).

It’s a showcase for star actors. Watts does well as essentially a realistic version of Evelyn Salt, coolly handling shady deals but also hosting suburban dinner parties properly. Penn (a vocal opponent of the war) gives Wilson a slight blowhard air which makes him interestingly unsympathetic, even when he’s in the right. If the ‘villains’ — David Andrews’ pursed-lips Scooter Libby — come across as cartoons, then they did in news footage too. The problem is, when global crisis puts stress on the couple’s marriage, it’s hard to care about their arguments while people get killed (or forgotten) offscreen.


Verdict
In the filmography of liberal-skewing, Bush-era true stories, this is a measured, persuasive item. It's questionable whether there's an appetite for hanging out more of the last decade's dirty laundry to dry in the multiplexes or 'For Your Consideration' awards bids, though.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Fair Game
Empire Star Rating

Fair Game: Review

Fair Game is a very good film. It has a really interesting story and the actors do an excellent performance for this character. My only problem with this film is the fact the story can go a bit too fast between scene to scene and it leaves you wondering what actually happened. I would recommend to go see this film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Edward9630 at 02:41, 08 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Dull !

Saw this yesterday. Thoguht it was quite good. Its points would have got across better had it been a documentry, though. ... More

Posted by nhassell at 16:30, 13 March 2011 | Report This Post


Dull !

Found this really tedious and uninvolving. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Shaun666 at 22:39, 11 March 2011 | Report This Post


4 stars

saw a preview screening a few weeks ago and can thoroughly recommend this movie. Watts and Penn are excellent. Easily a 4 star movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by redman at 19:00, 08 March 2011 | Report This Post


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