WHILE WE MAY NOT NEED to be reminded that the most recent Bush administration was built on lies, it never hurts to recall a few particulars. In 2003, Washington Post reporter Robert Novak wrote a column outing and effectively ending the career of Valerie Plame—a CIA operative who had been gathering intelligence on Iraq's supposed "weapons of mass destruction" program. When Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of manipulating this intelligence to "exaggerate the Iraqi threat," a plot of revenge was hatched, and Plame's identity was leaked to the press.
In Fair Game—partially based on Plame's biography of the same name—Naomi Watts and Sean Penn recreate the couple's professional, marital, and internal struggles during this time... to varying degrees of illumination and annoyance.
Penn—who's no slouch in the righteous indignation department—plays Wilson as equal parts knight in shining armor and self-aggrandizing deadbeat dad. Wilson's fury at the Bush administration threatens to overwhelm him; the fight for his family threatens to destroy them. Conversely, Watt's Plame is torn between her vows of silence and dedication to her country, and exposing the corrupt bastards for who they are.
To the film's credit, there are welcome touches of gray in this black and white world. While a good 80 percent of Fair Game lambastes the criminality and arrogance of the Bush administration with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, it's Penn and Watts' complicated characterizations that keep this from turning into another self-righteous exercise in political masturbation. While Fair Game may not inspire you to protest Obama's justice department—who has argued against Wilson and Plame's attempts to sue the Bushies responsible for endangering their lives and careers—it presents a necessary reminder of how power unchecked can easily veer into immoral impunity.