Jump to content

Fair Game (2010 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fair Game
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDoug Liman
Written by
Based onFair Game
by Valerie Plame
The Politics of Truth
by Joseph C. Wilson
Produced by
CinematographyDoug Liman
Edited byChristopher Tellefsen
Music byJohn Powell
Distributed bySummit Entertainment (United States)
Gulf Film (United Arab Emirates)[3]
Release dates
  • May 20, 2010 (2010-05-20) (Cannes)
  • October 1, 2010 (2010-10-01) (United States)
Running time
108 minutes
  • United States
  • United Arab Emirates
Budget$22 million[3]
Box office$24.2 million[3]

Fair Game is a 2010 biographical political drama film directed by Doug Liman and starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.[4] It is based on Valerie Plame's 2007 memoir Fair Game[4] and Joseph C. Wilson's 2004 memoir The Politics of Truth.[5]

Watts stars as Plame and Penn as her husband, Joseph C. Wilson.[4] It was released in 2010 and was one of the official selections competing for the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.[6] The film won the "Freedom of Expression Award" from the National Board of Review. The film marked Watts' and Penn's third collaboration, having previously co-starred in the films 21 Grams and The Assassination of Richard Nixon.


Valerie Plame is employed by the Central Intelligence Agency, a fact known outside the agency to no one except her husband and parents. She is an intelligence officer involved in a number of sensitive and sometimes dangerous covert operations overseas.

Her husband, Joseph C. Wilson, is a diplomat who most recently has served as the U.S. ambassador to Gabon. Due to his earlier diplomatic background in Niger, Wilson is approached by Plame's CIA colleagues to travel there and glean information as to whether yellowcake uranium is being procured by Iraq for use in the construction of nuclear weapons. Wilson determines to his own satisfaction that it is not.

After military action is taken by George W. Bush, who justifies it in a 2003 State of the Union address by alluding to the uranium's use in building weapons of mass destruction, Wilson submits an op-ed piece to The New York Times, claiming these reports to be categorically untrue.

Plame's status as a CIA operative is subsequently revealed in the media, the leak possibly coming from White House officials, including the vice president's chief of staff and national security adviser, Scooter Libby, in part to discredit her husband's allegation that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. As a result, Plame is instantly dismissed from the agency, leaving several of her delicate operations in limbo and creating a rift in her marriage.

Plame leaves her husband, further angered by his granting of television and print interviews, which expose them both to public condemnation and death threats. Wilson ultimately persuades her, however, that there is no other way to fight a power as great as that of the White House for citizens like them. Plame returns to him and testifies before a Congressional committee, while Libby is convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice and given a 30-month prison sentence, although President Bush commutes the jail time on Libby's behalf.

Main cast[edit]


Nicole Kidman[9] and Russell Crowe[10][better source needed] were originally cast in the lead roles in 2008.

Production took place in Washington, D.C.[11] and New York City.[12] In October 2009 the film news website Corona's Coming Attractions published an exclusive review from a source that had been invited to a test screening of the film. The reviewer gave the rough cut a positive recommendation calling it, "A wonderful human drama with political suspense that should interest anybody no matter how they vote."[13]

The film had a public screening during the Abu Dhabi film festival on October 21, 2010, and it got a generally positive review. There was also a Q&A session with the director afterwards.[citation needed]

There was a second preview screening in Brisbane, Australia as part of the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) on October 28, 2010.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 79% based on 174 reviews, with an average rating of 6.89/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "It struggles with the balance between fact-based biopic and taut political thriller, but Fair Game brims with righteous anger – and benefits from superb performances by Naomi Watts and Sean Penn."[14] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 69 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave it a grade "A−" on a scale from A+ to F.[16]

Historical accuracy[edit]

The film's premise – that Joe Wilson's fact-finding trip to Niger debunked the British claim that Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain uranium there – remained contested by some political writers. In a November 2010 Washington Post column about the film, Walter Pincus and Richard Leiby, two reporters who had covered the Plame affair, wrote that Wilson's assessment of the situation was accurate,[17] while National Review journalist Clifford May disagreed, writing that "the most important piece of information Wilson brought back from his mission to Africa was that a high-level Iraqi trade mission had visited Niger in 1999."[18] Separately a December 2010 Washington Post editorial also disagreed with Pincus and Leiby, citing the 2004 British Butler Review, which stated that the original claim by the British government was accurate.[19] In response, journalist David Corn wrote in Mother Jones that, contrary to the Butler Review, the CIA had stated in a private memo that the British uranium claim had been an exaggeration.[20]

Another contested issue in the film was that Plame's name had been leaked to conservative political commentator Robert Novak by someone in the White House, as retribution for Wilson's public comments about the uranium deal. The Washington Post editorial and Clifford May both stated that the leak was from the State Department, specifically Richard Armitage, who was himself an opponent of the Iraq War and thus would have no reason to try to discredit Wilson.[18][19] Pincus and Leiby, on the other hand, called this portion of the film accurate.[17] Corn agreed, writing that, though Armitage had been a source for the leak, he may not have been the only source, and that Karl Rove may have also leaked the information. Rove had in fact confirmed Plame's identity to Novak, but only after Novak had already heard the information from another source.[21] Rove had also mentioned Plame, though not by name, to another reporter, Time magazine's Matthew Cooper, although Cooper did not publish this information before Novak's revelation.[22]

There was more consensus about other aspects of Fair Game. In the film, Valerie Plame is shown working closely, and covertly, with a group of Iraqi scientists until her cover is blown; it is implied that the scientists were then abandoned as a result. Pincus and Leiby, May and the Washington Post editorial all agreed that Plame never worked directly with the scientists, and that the program did not end when her name was revealed.[17][18][19]

Pincus and Leiby also took issue with the film's depiction of Plame and Wilson's appearance in a profile in Vanity Fair magazine after Plame's outing – the two are shown in the film agonizing over whether to appear in the profile, but it is not shown that their decision to appear in a fashion-style photograph alongside the profile ended up becoming, in Pincus and Leiby's words, "a PR debacle for them."[17]

On the other hand, Pincus and Leiby praised the film for accuracy on several other points, including the indication that Plame had been a covert operative at the time of her outing (some reports indicated that she was not), and that, contrary to the original Novak column, Wilson had not been chosen to go on the Niger fact-finding trip due to a recommendation from his wife.[17]

Home media[edit]

Fair Game was released on DVD and Blu-ray for Region 1/Region A on March 29, 2011,[23] and for Region 2/Region B on July 11, 2011.[24]

Director's cut[edit]

A director's cut of the film was released on Netflix in 2018, running six minutes longer.[25] The re-edit brings Plame and Wilson’s marriage to the foreground, and provides more backstory for Plame’s work. Liman “I thought that I could greatly enhance the relationship between Joe and Valerie. I had better material in the can than what I had put on screen … I really just wanted to edit more from the gut.”[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Fair Game (2010)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on August 23, 2017.
  2. ^ AFI Catalog: Fair Game Linked July 11, 2014
  3. ^ a b c "Fair Game (2010) (2010) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 14, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Michael Fleming (February 23, 2009). "Sean Penn in talks for Plame 'Game'". Variety. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  5. ^ Scott, A. O. (November 5, 2010). "Marital Strife and C.I.A. Obligations". The New York Times. p. C8.
  6. ^ "Hollywood Reporter: Cannes Lineup". The Hollywood Reporter.
  7. ^ "WeCrashed: where is WeWork's Rebekah Neumann now?". South China Morning Post. March 24, 2022. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  8. ^ Smail, Gretchen (March 18, 2022). "Rebekah Neumann Once Made A Bizarre Short Film Starring Rosario Dawson". Bustle.
  9. ^ "Nicole Kidman Outed As Valerie Plame". Huffington Post. February 14, 2008.
  10. ^ Fair Game trivia, IMDb
  11. ^ Sean Penn Films "Fair Game" Scene in the District
  12. ^ CIA spy flick 'Fair Game' staying in Manhattan
  13. ^ Corona's Coming Attractions: Test Screening Review of Fair Game
  14. ^ "Fair Game (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  15. ^ "Fair Game (2010) Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  16. ^ Finke, Nikki (November 7, 2010). "#1 'Megamind', #2 'Due Date', #3 'For Colored Girls' All Meet Expectations; Long Lines And Sell-Outs For '127 Hours'". Deadline. Receiving an "a-" CinemaScore, the film skewed older while attendance was evenly split between men and women.
  17. ^ a b c d e Pincus, Walter; Leiby, Richard (November 7, 2010). "'Fair Game' gets some things about the Valerie Plame case right, some wrong". The Washington Post.
  18. ^ a b c Vanity Fair Game, Clifford May, National Review, December 16, 2010
  19. ^ a b c "Hollywood myth-making on Valerie Plame controversy". The Washington Post. December 4, 2010. Retrieved December 4, 2010.
  20. ^ "Washington Post: Still Spinning the CIA Leak Case". Mother Jones. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  21. ^ Rove Reportedly Held Phone Talk on C.I.A. Officer, David Johnston and Richard W. Stevenson, The New York Times, July 15, 2005 ("Correction: ... According to the account, Mr. Rove said I heard that, too after hearing about the officer [Valerie Plame] from the columnist [Robert Novak].")
  22. ^ What I Told the Grand Jury, Matthew Cooper, Time, July 17, 2005 ("As for Wilson's wife, I told the grand jury I was certain that Rove never used her name and that, indeed, I did not learn her name until the following week, when I either saw it in Robert Novak's column or Googled her, I can't recall which.")
  23. ^ Amazon US: Fair Game (2010) Linked July 11, 2014
  24. ^ Amazon UK: Fair Game [DVD] Linked July 11, 2014
  25. ^ "Doug Liman to Release Fair Game Director's Cut on Netflix". Collider. October 9, 2018.
  26. ^ Sims, David (October 25, 2018). "When Trump Makes Your Largely Forgotten Movie Urgent Again". The Atlantic.

External links[edit]