By Brian Lafferty
November 6, 2010 (San Diego)--I remember following the Valerie Plame scandal. I was astonished when I heard a CIA operative’s name was leaked to the press. I was mad when I learned of the motive and whom it allegedly came from. I was happy when Scooter Libby was convicted. Soon I was beyond outraged when George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence. When Bush left office, I could not be any more relieved when he refused to pardon him.
As you might tell, the Valerie Plame Affair inspired a lot of emotions in me. I hoped Fair Game would instill the same degree of passion. I wanted to get angry. I wanted that roller coaster of emotions. Alas, it barely delivered. I left feeling a little angry but mostly empty.
The “Fair Game” is Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) a CIA operative married to Ambassador Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn). Plame is asked to investigate the possible sale of uranium to Iraq. As we all know, nothing turned up. Bush declares war and Wilson writes a damning op-ed. In retaliation, Scooter Libby (David Andrews) leaks his wife’s name to a columnist. Her career is ruined and the two must deal with the fallout.
As I look at my description of the plot, I lament a movie that could have been something more. It’s not that the movie tells us stuff we know a lot about. It presents clear facts and a convincing, well-plotted story.
What’s lacking is passion. The first hour, which entails the investigation, the op-ed, and the war, is content only to present facts. Everything, the performances, writing, and atmosphere, has a matter-of-fact quality. It has such an air of ordinariness that I had a hard time getting into the story.
It isn’t until Plame’s identity is leaked that the movie picks up. It is at this point that the performances blossom. The last forty minutes contain the intensity and fire sorely lacking in the first hour. It is here that I got mad (in a good way, of course). When the Plames are harassed by people calling them traitors, when Wilson’s lunch with diplomats is wrecked by a woman badmouthing him, I was burning.
Unfortunately I had to wait a full hour for that. I’m not saying the investigation and op-ed should have been junked. I will say that they needed to be written, acted, and directed with the same bite, tension, suspense, and passion as the last forty minutes.