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+