Fair GameOverview -
Plame's status as a CIA agent was revealed by White House officials allegedly out to discredit her husband after he wrote a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
It's been a while since Valerie Plame Wilson was outed as a CIA operative in a newspaper column based on information passed along by Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and others. Even I forgot about the whole event until Doug Liman's 'Fair Game' ended up on my doorstep. That's the way news and rumors work it seems. We get all hot and bothered by it in the moment, and then it slowly fades away until we find ourselves thinking "Valerie who?"
I don't want this review to get too political, because everyone has strong feelings about everything that happens nowadays it's become almost impossible to have a civil political discussion. Instead we'll try and stick to the facts of the movie and the true story that it's based upon. I must confess ignorance about what went on behind the scenes during the Plame scandal, so I'm just going to have to take the movie at its word and hope that it isn't embellishing.
The movie begins with Plame, a CIA agent, trying her best to locate some hardcore evidence that Saddam and Iraq are indeed building weapons of mass destruction. Things become increasingly difficult for her as she continually finds no such evidence, but the White House keeps saying, "No, it's there. You're just not looking hard enough."
In order to quell a rumor that Saddam bought yellowcake uranium from the African country Niger, Plame hopes that her husband can help. Joe Wilson has expertise in the region as a former ambassador, and he's sent there by the agency to find out if any of these rumors are true. His conclusions find that there is absolutely no way, in his mind, that reports of a deal like the one the White House is purporting took place, could be true. All signs point to no weapons of mass destruction. Nada.
As we can all imagine, this doesn't sit well with some of the higher-ups that want to go to war with Iraq and need a reason to do so. In order to discredit Joe Wilson, they announce to the world that Valerie Plame, his wife, is the one that sent him on the fact-finding mission. Plame gets caught in the crossfire.
This is the kind of movie that if true, should make everyone mad. The media backlash against these people seemed unwarranted and ridiculous. The way we absorb what pundits say is a dangerous phenomenon it seems.
Surprisingly, the movie isn't as angry and anti-Bush Administration as it could have been. I never got a feeling that the movie was made just to wag a finger at the people responsible. It does wag a finger, but not in a ham-fisted way. The movie does plow through the facts rather quickly, and features Scooter Libby and Karl Rove conniving in their offices like Pinky and The Brain. Is that what really happened? I don't know. What we do know is that these people who were saying, all along, that there were no WMDs were right. Saddam didn't have them, even though that's the reason that was given for the war.
The amount of vitriol and hatred that was spewed at Mrs. Plame was pretty astonishing. She was called a third-tier CIA agent who wasn't very good at her job. It was even insinuated that she was just a secretary at the agency. It's pretty scary what powerful people can do with the media. How they can mold it to their advantage, and we the public eat it up. This really is a story about media awareness and how we can't take everything at face value. Blindly trusting never seems to work out anymore.
Like I said before, I honestly don't know exactly how everything transpired, and whether the movie is right or wrong in its portrayal. However, if it's accurate, and especially if lives were lost when Plame's cover was blown, then we should all demand an apology and accountability.
'Fair Game' comes to Blu-ray from an HD source. The 1080p image is helped along by an AVC MPEG-4 encode.
The presentation does harbor some of the nitpicky annoyances that come from HD sources, like some minor banding in a few scenes and flatter blacks. Other than those few blips, this is a fantastic looking transfer for a straight-forward, low key dramatic film. The palette is cool and sterile, with a hint of teal. The movie is filled with grays, blacks, and whites as the characters spend most of their time navigating bureaucratic offices in Washington. Skin tones are even and natural. Colors, like the heavy brownish earth tones of Iraq are wonderfully rendered. Blacks seem a little flat in quite a few instances, obscuring facial detail and the like. Speaking of detail, it's rather good here, with close-ups featuring a heavy amount of facial detail, from Sean Penn's jowls to Naomi Watts' all around beautiful face.
It's hard to find anything to dislike about this good looking HD presentation.
'Fair Game' is accompanied by a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that, at times, can be downright punishing to your HD system. You wouldn't have expected that from a talkative drama like this, huh?
Surprisingly, this movie is full of LFE-laden explosions some coming from news footage of the war, and others coming from bombs which are dropping right outside Iraqi homes. Dialogue is a little under-mixed here, with some whispered lines going unheard. It seemed when the big action-oriented scenes hit that the oomph was almost to the point of overpowering, because the rest of the movie is so somber. Surrounds are lively with action whether it be a busy CIA field office, a traffic jam in war torn Iraq as bullets whiz by, or a press conference with reporters clamoring with questions. All these situations offer an immersive listening experience.
- Audio Commentary — Here's a great commentary that really deserves to be listened to. The real Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson are included here. What a fantastic idea. I would to have liked to have Doug Liman commenting with them, but they're presence is a fantastic and welcome addition. Plame comments on how realistic the CIA set looks compared to the real thing. Joe comments on how Sean Penn actually tried to capture all of his own mannerisms. It really must be weird watching a movie based on your life. There are quite a few silent moments, which is where a third person like one of the filmmakers would have made for a welcome addition. They could've asked questions and guided the commentary. Still, it's wonderful to hear these two talk frankly about their lives and how they're portrayed on screen. Plame does a great job discussing exactly what it's like working in the CIA and how similar the meetings are in the movie compared to how they're run in real life. This is one of the better commentaries I've listened to, because it's different from the normal director commentary we usually get.
'Fair Game' breezes through many of the meaty facts surrounding the case of Valerie Plame, but it's able to create a tension-filled thriller of sorts out of a story that isn't all that "thrilling." One thing to admire about the movie is that it never feels like it's preaching from a soap box. The audio and video are nicely done, and even though there's only one extra, it's a great, original commentary. I recommend 'Fair Game' for anyone out there looking to learn more about the story of Valerie Plame, or anyone just wanting a good political thriller.
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