Directed by Doug Liman
2010, 108 mins., PG-13
Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote a book about his long struggle to tell the truth about the origins of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It is part of the basis for this compact, fact-based, drama recounting how Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, suffered for the truth about Iraq.
As they re-tell it, the audience remembers most of the story. Wilson was asked to go to Africa to verify a rumor that the government of Saddam Hussein was buying processed uranium in big quantities. He reported that the rumor wasn't true, but President Bush used it nevertheless to "prove" that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction, and America went to war. Wilson continued to assert the simple truth, and brought down a firestorm of retaliation from the White House, including the "outing" of his covert CIA-operative wife, Valerie Plame.
Sean Penn and Naomi Watts are perfect as the couple. Penn thunders righteous indignation, and icy espionage agent Watts melts into a confused, brooding housewife right before our eyes. Of course, a lot of the drama is conflict between her "America right or wrong" CIA values, and his desperate grip on integrity. In one of their arguments, Penn's agonizing face fills the big movie screen as he bawls out, "Bush lied, and that's the truth!" One of the audience members was so carried away that he began an extended applause, which is unusual in a movie theater.
OK, it was me. I had worried, since I remember the story, and since I knew that none of the principal liars who launched the invasion of Iraq had been brought to task, that the movie wouldn't be able to develop much emotional involvement. I was wrong about that. By the way, unindicted ex-president George Bush lives in comfort about a mile from the Dallas theater where we watched Fair Game.
The movie goes on. It steadily explains how the truth was twisted, exploded, exploited and finally suppressed, to convince Americans to sacrifice our riches and our children in Iraq.
The last frame of the picture shows two union logos: Stagehands and Teamsters. As my movie buddy and I prepared to go, a stern looking woman with her hands in her coat pockets stayed behind to confront us. "They're all in it together, the one-worlders," she told us grimly.
"All of them? You mean we can't believe anybody?" I asked.
"All of them," she asserted with finality. "You can't believe anybody, anywhere." She spun around and strode away determinedly, both hands still digging down into her coat.
That's what we've come to.
Photo: Actors Sean Penn and Naomi Watts in "Fair Game."