Doug Liman, director of The Bourne Identity and Mr and Mrs Smith, is at the helm of gripping real-life spy movie Fair Game, a sober and sobering account of the double-dealing of the Bush White House in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq.
Naomi Watts plays CIA agent Valerie Plame, the longtime operative whose cover was ruthlessly blown by a government adviser after her husband, retired diplomat Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), publicly challenged the President’s claims about Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.
The leak destroyed Plame’s career, put her field contacts in mortal peril and almost ruined her marriage. Not that this bothered the vindictive White House. In the words of Bush hatchet man Karl Rove, which give the film its title, she was ‘fair game’.
Plame’s treatment was scandalous and Liman and his cast do her story justice. Watts is superb in the lead and, for a change, her casting isn’t a case of Hollywood creating an overly glamorous version of an actual person – the real Plame is beautiful and blonde. Indeed, she found her good looks used against her when the White House tried to discredit her.
Fair Game takes pains to establish Plame’s credibility as a spy with its matter-of-fact portrayal of her cloak-and-dagger work overseas, but it’s the film’s chilling depiction of the cut-throat political manoeuvres back home in Washington that really convince you of the story’s authenticity.
This is borne out by Plame and Wilson’s illuminating DVD commentary, which contains the following deadpan appraisal by Wilson of the Bush regime’s knee-jerk mendacity: “They lie even when they don’t have to. Just to stay in shape.”
Released on DVD & Blu-ray by Entertainment One.