Two time Oscar winner Sean Penn (Milk, Mystic River) and Naomi Watts (The Painted Veil) team up for the second time, their first was 21 Grams earning Watts her first Oscar nomination. In a completely different setting and genre, Fair Game is a well crafted political thriller. Directed by Doug Liman the man behind Mr. & Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity, he uses his famous editing and suspenseful atmosphere to heighten the tension in this factually based drama. Fair Game will have an uncertain future this awards season, with worthy performances from the two leads; the highly political script will turn those already sick of politics off. Despite which side your politics favor however, this film stays close to the issue of one family and in particular one husband and wife’s struggle to endure this war they inadvertently step into.

   Valerie Plame (Watts) an undercover CIA agent has been exposed by the White House putting her entire covert operations and the lives of her protected resources in danger. In an attempt to discredit Plame’s outspoken liberal husband and CIA cooperative, Vice Presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby (David Andrews) exposes Plame by de-classifying her. Plame and husband Wilson (Penn) become opposing forces as she is to remain silent, while he can’t stop screaming at the Bush administration in an attempt to prove they lied.

   Again no matter what your politics or how much of this story they got right, Liman and the writers do a great job keeping the subject on the extreme circumstances this family face. Fair Game, which is what Libby according to the film, refers to Plame as, is a film about one family facing the kind of odds we are rarely exposed to on film. Both Penn and Watts do some of their best work and are deserving of the Oscar nominations they likely won’t receive. For most of us the details involving the Libby fiasco were blurry, but the dramatics in this film make it riveting to watch.

   There could not have been a better or more appropriate actor to play the role of Joseph Wilson, Penn with his own outspoken neurosis is pitch perfect, and he must be able to understand that he is playing exactly what people think he is. Watts often plays this type of internally disconnected character and here is one more variation of that. Watts who has had a fantastic year with a tour de force performance in Mother & Child is one of the most talented actors working today. Fair Game’s leading interest is taking the viewer behind headlines; the performances just elevate it to one of the year’s best films.

   Final Thought – Watts and Penn are fantastic to watch in this riveting political thriller.

Grade A-

By: Dustin Chase W.

Editor: Jennifer Gih