Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA/United Arab Emirates, 2010. River Road Entertainment, Participant Media, Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Weed Road Pictures, Hypnotic, Dillywood, Fair Game Productions. Screenplay by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, based on the books The Politics of Truth: Inside The Lies That Led To War And Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity: A Diplomat’s Memoir by Joseph Wilson, and Fair Game: My Life As A Spy, My Betrayal By The White House by Valerie Plame Wilson. Cinematography by Doug Liman. Produced by Jez Butterworth, Akiva Goldsman, Doug Liman, Bill Pohlad, Janet Zucker, Jerry Zucker. Music by John Powell. Production Design by Jess Gonchor. Costume Design by Cindy Evans. Film Editing by Christopher Tellefsen. Cannes Film Festival 2010. National Board of Review Awards 2010.
Riveting true story of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative whose cover was blown by the Bush administration in an effort to further their cause to invade Iraq. Naomi Watts is compelling as Plame, a woman whose work in the field is key in sending back information as to the nature of the weapons capabilities of countries in the middle east; her friends at home believe she works in the financial sector and is constantly going on business trips. When there isn’t enough consensus among operatives as to the verifiable existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the data is cherry-picked by the administration, which in turn inspires her husband Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), former ambassador to Gabon and Sao Tome And Principe, to retaliate with a piece in the New York Times about the false nature of the claims. The government, in turn, responds by leaking Plame’s identity to the press and thereby destroying her entire career. Based on two books by the protagonists at the centre of the story, the film is a fascinating exploration of post-9/11 America, a descent into the heart of a time when non-conformist thinking was enough to have you declared a traitor to the nation (a scene where Penn is accosted by a self-righteous journalist is incredibly tense). The performances are superb and the hypothesis of the story incredibly tragic: while Plame’s experience might not be the most devastating example of a life destroyed because of war, it is definitely emblematic of a nation whose ideals (which we are reminded of thanks to a Benjamin Franklin quote somewhere in the film) seem to have been abandoned in favour of the amassing of capital. The film could have benefited from a deeper level of complex storytelling than director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) provides, but he is also responsible for its swift pace and smooth narrative.