Saturday 13 August 2011

Fair Game (2010) - Doug Liman

“Wife.  Mother.  Spy”

Or, the trials and tribulations of the modern woman.  Is this a political film about the Iraq war?  Or a simple film about a woman balancing work and family?

Liman’s biopic about CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) attempts to do both, but sooner or later a choice must be made – remember, “no politics at the table”.  The film acts as political comment, the dire search for weapons of mass destruction revealing the futility of war and racial prejudices between the American and Iraqi people.  This being biographical, news footage is utilised for historical accuracy; in particular a statement from the real Valerie Plame played during the credits for a poignant ending.

Ultimately, though, the film is more concerned with family values.  When Valerie’s true identity as a CIA agent is revealed, it strains the relationship with her husband Joe (Sean Penn) and the boundaries between work and family are blurred.  When marriage resides on a series of post-its, can it be saved?  Liman’s prerogative is with the impact of the war on family, whichever side of the Atlantic.  Valerie’s situation is paralleled with an Iraqi woman who risks her life to save her family in Iraq, but is let down by the CIA.  Rather than focusing on the ineptitude of the American government, Liman chooses to focus on the personal issues raised, but his approach feels cold and clinical, despite strong performances from Watts and Penn.

So what is the true identity of Fair Game?  Political thriller or family drama?  I don’t think even Liman knows.  Sure, the film raises questions of political intrigue, but the central focus on family proves less than thrilling.