Doug Liman’s Fair Game is an important movie. The legacy of the Bush Administration’s War on Terror comprises many grand injustices: civilian casualties, torture, increased resentment worldwide, eroded civil liberties, et al. In other words, lots of raw material for screenplays.
Most treatments in movies so far have been fictional explorations of the cost upon American soldiers and their families (including The Messenger and In the Valley of Elah). Fair Game belongs to a different genre: the dramatization of actual figures in the midst of specific events. Fair Game is structured as a more conventional biopic than more rigorous recreations like The Road to Guantanamo, United 93, and Zero Dark Thirty.
Fair Game dramatizes the public scapegoating of CIA officer Valerie Plame and former Ambassador to Africa Joe Wilson simply because their jobs tasked them with giving answers to difficult questions, questions that they didn’t realize had already been given scripted answers by the Bush Administration. Plame and Wilson’s intelligence conflicted with the preconceived fictional narrative that Iraq was pursing a nuclear weapons program. Plame and Wilson were both firmly ensconced within the system, and chewed up by it when they tried to resist their exploitation.
One possible flaw with Fair Game is that it strives to position Plame and Wilson as the protagonists of a traditional two-hour biopic narrative. They are burdened with traditional character motivations, such as to clear their names, save their marriage, and expose villainy. The facts of history don’t really make for a conventionally satisfying climax to a thriller plot. When Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff Scooter Libby was convicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, it was through no direct action of the fictionalized Plame and Wilson.
Fair Game rightly highlights Plame and Wilson’s heroism in exposing the administration’s lies, but the demands of a conventional biopic to present its protagonists as having vindicated themselves doesn’t really fit in this particular case.