In Fair Game, Naomi Watts is sharp-eyed and sexy in a grave, cunning way as Valerie Plame, the veteran CIA agent who was outed as an operative by the Bush administration. Directed with born-again three-dimensional finesse by Doug Liman (Mr. & Mrs. Smith), the movie scrupulously retraces the events of the Plame affair in a way that probably won’t influence anyone’s political views of it one iota. Yet Fair Game, as it evolves from a spy-game mystery into an inside-the-Beltway Scenes From a Marriage, enriches our human understanding of what the politics meant.
Sean Penn, all self-righteous middle-aged bluster, is Plame’s diplomat husband, Joe Wilson, a charismatic dinner-party blowhard who in the run-up to the Iraq war goes on a fact-finding mission to Niger. He learns that the country never sold yellowcake uranium to Iraq, and he then watches as the president misrepresents that finding in a speech to the nation. Wilson decides to go public with his outrage, which is when the Bush men leak Plame’s identity — as payback, though really to change the story. Fair Game gets you riled up all over again at a deeply unpatriotic abuse of power. Yet as the Plame-Wilson marriage begins to fray and tear, the two are really wrestling with a question that now haunts America: What’s greater, the price of hiding the truth — or telling it? B+