“Fair Game”
 
            “Fair Game” is Hollywood ’s version of the Valerie Plame story, told from her point of view (via her book) and the point of view of her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. Ambassador (via his book).  As with all political stories, how it’s told will depend entirely upon the point of view assumed in the first place.  Just know, going in, that this is the side of the story of two very high-powered professional people, married to each other, who both felt that they were treated unfairly by the Bush Administration.  Undoubtedly there are other ways to tell their stories, but they’re the ones who got to make the movie.
            Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) is a CIA operative---has been since she volunteered while still in college.  Her “front” is as an international business executive, which allows her to travel to remote areas without raising undue suspicion.  The fact that she is married, the mother of two children, and young and attractive also work toward deflecting suspicion away from her.  She’s been working with Middle East operatives---she has several “teams” in place---and trying to arrange for prominent Iraqi scientists to be able to defect quietly with their families.  She promises them safe passage, and complete amnesty.
            In the meantime, her husband, former Ambassador Wilson (Sean Penn), is an addicted political junkie---always listening to the news, always reacting vituperatively to any point of view which does not closely correspond to his own.  Yes, his great passion is both his appeal and his weakness:  he seems incapable of being dispassionate, even long enough to have a clarifying conversation about logical objectives.  She tolerates him in part because he helps take care of their two children, and in part because she needs the subterfuge of family “normalcy” to make her own clandestine life function properly.
            The tricky part starts when her team is given the assignment of trying to verify if Iraq had done business with Niger regarding components for those dreaded WMD (weapons of mass destruction), and they decide that she can ask her husband to go on the fact-finding mission, which will help make him feel more important again.  He concludes, from not encountering any evidence, that therefore there couldn’t have been any (a self-centered arrogance curiously unexplored in the film).  When the Bush Administration begins systematically leaking reports to the contrary, obviously to justify their emerging decision to invade Iraq , Wilson goes ballistic, and public.  He writes an op-piece for “The New York Times” decrying the shameless warmongering of the Administration, but surely Mr. Wilson had been around the political scene long enough to know that you don’t do that kind of thing and not expect repercussions.  What nobody expected is for some anonymous mole burrowed deep in the bowels of the bureaucracy to retaliate by leaking the revelation that Valerie Plame, Wilson ’s wife, is an active CIA agent.
            The public disclosure hits them like a tsunami.  Instantly, her government career is over.  It doesn’t matter what “projects” she currently had going overseas, and it doesn’t matter about the scientists and their families she was working with that are now helplessly exposed, as well.  The “Agency,” naturally, furiously backpedals away from her, and refuses her any kind of access.  The stress on their marriage is when Mr. Wilson learns that his “fact-finding” junket was in fact throwing him a bone because he needed the work, and his pride and ego are so wounded that for a while they separate.  But Plame says, “They can take my career away, but they’re not taking my marriage with it”---as if she controls that, too?
            Well, there’s no question that Naomi Watts and Sean Penn are masterful in their performances---believable to the point of incredulity regarding any other interpretation of events.  Eventually, of course, some heads rolled in the Administration, but not necessarily directly related to this particular fiasco.  And considering that it was the lower-level stooges who took the fall, you have to wonder “how high” this supposed act of revenge went up the chain of command.  Ah, but we’ll never know, will we?  Or won’t we?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas