Fair Game
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Fair Game

For as long as men have divided themselves along any arbitrary lines that may have conceived there have been wars. And as thunder follows lightning one side would attempt to infiltrate the other an attempt to find weaknesses that may be exploited; spies. In the aftermath of the red menace care of the 50s that led to the Cold War of the 60s espionage thrillers have continued to dominate all forms of entertainment including literature, cinema and television. The most popular form of this subgenre depicts the highly trained spy with the most futuristic gadgets conceivable. Are these is certainly thrilling and quite entertaining they are however far removed from the realities faced by real espionage agents. ‘Fair Game’, is based on a real-life memoirs by Valerie Plame Wilson, ‘Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House’ and the autobiographical companion piece by her husband, Joseph C. Wilson, ‘The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity: A Diplomat's Memoir’. Ambassador Wilson was not only a highly ranked diplomat he served President George H. W. Bush as the Special Assistant and NSC Senior Director for African Affairs. Between 1985 and 2006, Mrs. Wilson was an operative for the Central intelligence Administration, and the more common parlance, the spy for the CIA. On 14 July 2003 the covert function was revealed in an article by the Washington Post utilizing information made available by Richard Armitage at the US State Department. This immediately destroyed your effectiveness and wound her career with the agency. This is also a scandal that dominated even the usually short-lived new cycle of cable news for in an inordinate amount of time. Most spy thrillers contain the subplot of the agent frantically trying to avoid being revealed by the enemy but in this instance eradicating the career of an effective agent was done by people within our own government. The film on the consideration here is concerned with these facts and would go on to bring an honor bestowed by the National Board of Review; ‘Freedom of Expression Award"’.

Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) has been employed by the CIA as an intelligence officer frequently assigned to operations overseas. One point where the fantasies of movies overlap with reality is the very real danger that she would face if identity and assignments were made known. To help prevent this aside from the handler in the agency the only one who knew her true identity was her family. Her husband, Joseph (Sean Penn), was the US ambassador to Gabon. This degree of diplomatic access gave Wilson the ability to easily obtain information crucial to the machinations of the CIA. The agency wanted Wilson to gather information that would make it possible to more accurately ascertain whether or not the kind who is producing yellowcake uranium, a critical step in constructing a nuclear weapon. If such material was born into the wrong hands, i.e., Iraq, the results would be devastating arming terrorists. Upon his examination Wilson concluded that no such program was currently active.

Despite these negative findings Pres. George W. Bush ordered a military action to be launched against the Iraq. In his 2003 state of the union address President Bush cited an enriched uranium program, sparking a national controversy. This led to Ms. Palmer’s involvement with the CIA to be publicly revealed not only destroying efficacy as an operative but placing her and her family. In an attempt to defuse the situation Wilson submits the op-ed piece for the New York Times denouncing the allegations as completely untrue. Public outrage ensued when Palmer’s status as a CIA operative was blown. It appeared that the leak that destroyed her career and threatened her life was made by someone within the White House staff. This threatened the effectiveness and lives of many operatives still in place. Understandably this placed them marriage and exceptional strain and when Wilson consented to print and television interviews the strain on the marriage becomes too great and she leaves her husband. During all of this the vice president’s Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby (David Andrews). As things escalate Palmer’s call to testify before congressional committee convened to sort out the mess. She is sentenced to a 30 month sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice which was then commuted by President Bush’s executive order.

There is little in this film that would be recognizable by the diehard fans of spy thrillers. No salacious sexual encounters with enemy agents no car chases vehicles on the Army like an attack tank or clever devices meticulously designed to neutralize enemy threats. The content of this film is far more frightening that the lives of people risk closure and potential death on a regular basis can be so easily that such a threat to their covert identities can come from people highly placed in the government they willingly serve. Making matters worse for many Americans is that at the core of this affair is that the administration was scrambling to justify their invasion of Iraq. Many Americans felt that there was no justification after the tragic events of 9/11 on the incursion into that country. The crucial issues that came to the public eye and what he did the debated were greatly exacerbated by the inclusion of other debates of fundamental rights. It was Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak who made public the fact that Wilson, a member of the American diplomatic corps in Niger, was married to a CIA operative was been issued her own directives. When the Administration was unable to justify military action sales of uranium that proved to be completely fallacious this whole debacle comes down to them trying to save face in front of the public. Ultimately this not only disclosed the identity of many of the operatives but it resulted in the execution of several of them

Within the context of the film both Wilson and Plame are consistently depicted as loyal Americans working with honest intent to serve and protect their country. They also depicted as having a very strong and loving marriage despite the unusual circumstances that are infusing its very fabric. The audience has no reason to think any of the terms while experiencing the story. Naomi Watts has been a consistently strong artist for many years, twice nominated for ‘Best Performance Is a Leading Actress’ by the Academy Awards. To hear her speak in interviews you cannot help but come to the conclusion that this is a woman who cares about her crafts and how it is involved with the social issues of the day. In this movie, like so many others she’s appeared in, owns the depiction of her character. Indubitably the strength of this movie is derived from the very personal context of the situations. There is no sword of Damocles in the form of stolen nuclear weapons, no ticking clock counting down a madman’s doomsday plot. What drives this film is the need to justify actions that led to military action on foreign soil where our soldiers four and died. Decisions were made the heat of the moment following the tragedy of 9/11 but as cooler heads managed to prevail, those responsible for the decisions call to justify them. Valerie Plame and her husband found their career and relationships falling victim not to some idealistic goal for but rather for the basic need for spin control. The director of this movie, Doug Liman, as had a few eclectic films to his name but is mostly known for television series including a few in the espionage vein; ‘Covert Affairs’, is significant part of the cinematic ‘Bourne’ franchise. The man obviously knows what Hollywood and the fans demand from a spy movie but this film proves that he can step back from the fiction and demonstrate how real events can be much more frightening than those that come from the mind of a screenwriter. The bonus for this film is quite remarkable and should be heard; and audio commentary with Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson.

Posted 06/22/2015

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