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Fair Game

Fair Game: One Family Against the White House

  • Khaled El NabawyNaomi Watts...
  • Action & AdventureDrama
  • Doug Liman
reviewed by
Haisam Abu-Samra
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Fair Game: One Family Against the White House

Set
during the mayhem following 9/11, Fair
Game
details how the Bush Administration determined Iraq’s
possession of WMDs. The film is a relentless attack on the Bush regime based on
the story of Valerie Plame (Watts), a CIA agent who
worked at the time to investigate the alleged Iraq nuclear program. Her
investigation led her to a different conclusion than the US government’s
assertive claims that justified the war.

The
film starts off in October 2001. Joe (Penn), a former politician and his
seemingly normal wife Valerie are having dinner with their friends. The mood is
chipper despite the recent events, but when one of the guests makes an off-hand
comment about his fear of turban-wearing flight passengers, Joe confronts his
bigotry and gives him a piece of his mind. That’s Joe in a nutshell, an
uncompressing liberal who doesn’t know how to hold back.

Valerie
is secretly leading her own operations scattered all over the world, and when
intelligence reports surface about a recent uranium deal between Iraq and an
African country, she asks Joe to follow its trail in Africa. Joe concludes that
such a deal couldn’t have happened, but his report gets marginalised. So when President
Bush makes a speech about Iraqi WMDs and America goes to war to find none,
Joe writes an opinion piece attacking the regime and causing a public uproar.
The White House fights back and leaks information to the press, outing Valerie
as a CIA agent, jeopardising her life and her operatives; and as things move
on, her marriage.   

Fair Game could have very well turned into a dry
political drama but Liman’s lively direction stays
attuned to the characters’ layered emotions and brings an engaging depth to the
film to counter the material’s heavy political nature.

The film features Egyptian
actor Khaled El Nabawy in a small but integral role as an Iraqi nuclear
scientist that Valerie promises asylum to; but he is ultimately forgotten in
the aftermath of the scandal. El Nabawy gives a convincing performance as an
Iraqi all the way down to his authentic accent.

What’s most impressive about Fair Game is the powerful performances by both Watts and Penn. Penn plays the part
of the self-righteous liberal with fierce commitment, yet he also exudes a
gentle vulnerability that helps make the character endearing. Watts
pulls off the seemingly impossible feat of playing a character that is stone-cold
and collected, yet still filled with compassion and love.

Fair
Game
is as entertaining
as a political drama can get. However, it’s still a film that takes place
mostly in CIA operation rooms and deals with the footnotes of the Iraqi war.
There aren’t any attempts to marry the drama with any gunshots or car chases to
make it more conventional. Approach it as thriller or a war film and you’ll be
disappointed. Approach it as a well-dramatised documentation of the Iraqi war
and you will be pleasantly rewarded.

Like This? Try

Green Zone, Body of Lies, Syriana

360 Tip

The film faced some problems with the Egyptian censorship board due to the fact that an Israeli actress is amongst the cast.

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