Fair Game (DVD Movie Review): the Valerie Plame Story

Fair Game DVD review

Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA Agent who operated a network of informants in the Middle East. Her husband Joseph Wilson was an ex diplomat who publicly questioned in the New York Times whether the Bush administration manipulated intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq.

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Senior Bush Whitehouse official Karl Rove figured that made her Fair Game so her identity was leaked to right-wing newspaper columnist Robert Novak as an act of retribution.

novak outed valerie plame

“Fair Game” is a movie dramatisation of the events that let to Plame getting outed and her husband’s fight afterwards to protect their reputation against the barrage of misinformation and character assassination in the media. Marriage trouble between Plame (Naomi Watts) and Wilson (Sean Penn) is a constant theme and source of background tension as they juggle work hours and taking care of twin children.

One of the strengths of the film is how it weaves in real footage from FOX, C-SPAN and other news networks at the time including Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice and VP Chaney stating that they were certain Saddam had shipments of aluminium tubes that are “only suited for nuclear weapons programs”, which is contrary to the actual evidence.

When noted film reviewer Roger Ebert wrote his review he made a very good point “how well does “Fair Game” work as a movie? I suspect it will work better the more you walk in agreeing with it.”

From my point of view Fair Game is well worth watching. The key special feature of the DVD is an audio commentary by the real Valerie Plame and her husband Joe Wilson commenting on the story as it unfolds. I initially watched the movie as normal but switched to subtitles and the audio commentary soundtrack for the rest of the film as I felt it provided important insights and more engagement with the story.

EDIT: I forgot to note earlier that this was a media screener copy of the movie provided by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Background

The 1992 Intelligence Identities and Protection Act makes it an offense to intentionally disclose the identity of a covert US agent. Lewis “Scooter” Libby (adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney) was convicted in 2007 on 4 counts including obstructing justice which means the Special Prosecutor couldn’t get to the truth of events. The 30 month prison sentence was pardoned by President Bush shortly afterwards.

SBS Dateline host Yalda Hakim followed up the story in early 2011 interviewing Plame for her story A Spy Exposed.

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