This incredibly tedious political thriller, from The Bourne Identity director Doug Liman, tries and fails to make an intelligent and compelling drama out of the 2003 Valerie Palme scandal.
Palme was a CIA agent involved in international operations. During the WMD fears of the early 2000s, her husband Joseph Wilson – due to his knowledge and background – was asked by the CIA to investigate whether or not Iraq was obtaining yellowcake uranium to use in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. However, although Wilson reported that, in his opinion, the procuring of such materials from Niger was not occurring, George W. Bush made a speech that said the opposite. Wilson’s information was, it seems, altered to suit the argument for war. Understandably outraged, Wilson then published an article in the New York Times branding the reports that yellowcake uranium was being obtained by Iraq as false. Not long after, his wife’s name is leaked to the press, revealing her as a CIA agent, ruining her current overseas operations and endangering her sources of intelligence.
The above is a very simplified summary of what occurred. The film goes into more detail, although it needn’t have bothered. Its woefully inept attempts to explain these events are not only eye-wateringly boring, much of it rather audaciously manipulates the truth of what actually happened. Naomi Watts is a very competent actress, but here her performance is founded on stern-jawed stares and lots of blonde hair. It’s a watered down repeat of her turn in The International. Sean Penn is even worse, and fans of his better movies will be clasping their heads in despair throughout the film’s (mercifully short) running time.
There are some good things about it: it’s brave enough not to change names to protect the guilty; it has good intentions on its side. But none of this could save me from the feeling of crushing disappointment as I watched a director of Doug Liman’s calibre turn a potentially riveting true story into a crass political pantomime. Valerie Palme deserved better than this.
Fair Game (2011), directed by Doug Liman, is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Entertainment One, certificate 15.