There are many sides to a coin, and this film is based on the memoirs of Valerie Plame's Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, and that of her husband Joseph Wilson's The Politics of Truth which chronicled their experience in The Plame Affair, or the CIA leak scandal which blew the cover of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion in 2003. That of course rings plenty of alarm bells because unless one is 007, having one's secret identity blown spells trouble with a capital T in both the professional realm and personal life safety of family and loved ones. Getting one's back turned by your employer is one thing, but in the high stakes game of intelligence and espionage, getting yourself exposed by the highest office in the land points to being made a scapegoat hung out to dry.
Directed by Doug Liman is himself no stranger to themes of betrayal and spy vs spy type of films like Mr and Mrs Smith and The Bourne Identity. Fair Game had competed in Cannes earlier this year for the Palme d'Or, and has two solid thespians in Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, who had starred opposite each other in two other films before, to thank in keeping the narrative solid and riveting through excellent performances as the husband and wife team who get heavily involved in the analysis and searching for WMD evidence for Langley, and finding themselves at the wrong end of everything just because the powers that be have a hidden agenda and ulterior motive. Either that, or through shooting by the hip it's tough to retract a gung-ho policy in motion, and blame has to be squarely set somewhere.
I sat through the presentation given by then Secretary of State Colin Powell live on TV, and I'm sure many of you did as well as he went through slide after slide, photo after photo in presenting his case for an Iraq invasion. And who would have thought that this was actually based on non-recent intelligence gathered by the many hardworking men and women working frantically behind the scenes to justify beyond doubt the authenticity of evidence before submitting a recommendation. For what it's worth I learnt something new today, that intelligence could perhaps be a collection of opinions being evaluated for that bigger picture.
With any big screen adaptation comes the caveat that there are always certain dramatic liberties being taken to tell a story for the masses, so if you were to keep an open mind, you're in for quite the thrilling ride in this intelligence game about the battle to restore one's integrity. Way before Wikileaks (again a subtext here being the distrust of the Middle Easterns against the Americans because of promises unfulfilled), the media is used by either side to tell their version of the story, and you have to admit that sometimes this channel is open to subtle exploitation with the skewing of public opinion and distraction through very savvy public relations rather than to focus on cold hard facts, hyping things up in character assassinations and letting the cogs in the machinery work itself. Sounds familiar, don't you think?
A reminder that rings out really loudly come from the different approaches the couple adopted in their response to adversity posed. For Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) it is that of silence, preferring to fade away after attempts to wrap up her yet to be completed covert operations become stone walled by her supervisor, which was expected when they had discussed the approach he would have to take should their secret discussions and operations turn awry. But her husband and former ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) is adamant in speaking up against untruths and being played out, portrayed as the bogeyman, and you can't help but feel a little bit inspired that so long as you're speaking up for a true cause, there's really nothing to fear. After all, the responsibility to keep in check a runaway rogue government from running the country into the ground through immoral and unethical methods, lie with every citizen, not just a select few who may also harbour thoughts that it's their birthright to run the country.
If Green Zone by Paul Greengrass deals with troops running around on the ground to find proof to justify their boots on Iraqi soil, then Fair Game is that companion piece that deals with events on a diplomatic and covert level before the invasion, that of course went unheeded, deliberately misinterpreted, and we find the world in the mess it doesn't need compounded today. Recommended stuff as it takes contemporary politics and massages it into something more palatable with themes to hit home with a resounding outcome.