Fair Game is billed as a political and/or spy thriller – but it’s really a horror movie, at least for democrats. It’s a cautionary tale about government operatives, back-channel dealings, vendettas, and the manipulation of facts to promote an agenda. And it’s based on a true story – which makes it even scarier!

The movie recounts the circumstances surrounding the vindictive ‘outing’ of CIA agent Valerie Plame after her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, pissed off the Bush Administration by blowing holes in the “intelligence” used to justify war against Iraq. Naomi Watts and Sean Penn are excellent as the embattled couple – a veritable Scarecrow and Mrs. King of the post-9/11 era.

Political wonks and CSpan junkies will like this movie, or at least understand the partisan machinations. Everyone else– not so much. This movie is very “inside the beltway.” If you don’t know a Scooter Libby from a Scooby Doo, then this film aint for you – unless you want to see and understand how a coordinated leak plays out in our 24/7 news cycle… or how scapegoats are created… or why Karl Rove is evil. Then, by all means, give it a shot.

The first half of Fair Game is fairly boring. But the pace and performances pick up steam in the second half, after Plame’s covert identity is exposed to the masses. The film goes a bit over the top with the moral outrage from both sides of the political spectrum (all in the name of patriotism, of course), not to mention high-falutin’ lines like “You have to know why you’re lying – and never forget the truth.” But the ultimate message is important – even if it won’t be seen or grasped by those who most need to ‘get it’ (as is often the case with movies produced, at least in part, by Participant Media. Charlie Wilson’s War, Waiting for ‘Superman’, Food, Inc. etc.).  Fair Game is designed to raise awareness and consciousness (and yes – outrage) and promote dialogue about inherent flaws in our political system and media culture. It also seeks to remind people that they can fight back against injustice at the highest-levels of government. But good luck with that. Where is Jack Bauer when you need him?

Fair Game is based on books written by Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, so it’s no surprise that the movie is decidedly and unabashedly skewed in their favor. Fortunately, Penn embodies the role of the outraged hero pretty darn well, so I’ll cut him some slack. The ending is a bit abrupt, but I guess that’s because this particular story doesn’t really have one. At least, not yet.

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