Friday, November 12, 2010


Friday Night Movie Review--Fair Game

I'm going to try something new, review a movie I haven't seen. "Fair Game" came out last week, on November 5, 2010, in 46 theaters (including two in the Denver area). Because of the failure of nearly all of the America-bashing political and military movies of the last half decade (and the list of these box office failures is long) the decision makers of how Fair Game is distributed have gone for the slow roll out. That is, they put the movie in a few theaters, see how it does, hope for good reviews and word of mouth and, if things pan out, the movie goes to more theaters and eventually to a full release (that is, in more than 2,500 theaters nationwide). In the first weekend, the movie made about $600,000. That ain't so good. The reviews have been OK but generally lukewarm and even the positive ones say the movie is a trifle soulless. Here, at Rotten Tomatoes, is a sampling. The percentage of positive reviews is just below 80%. That's not bad. The average movie viewer's positive feedback is a rather anemic 65%. Whether this movie will buck the recent tradition of Americans boycotting anti-American movies is a long shot and the number of theaters that are playing it today, will tell a lot of the tale. I'll update. [Box Office Mojo reports that the number of theaters showing the film will increase to 175 this Friday. Still a little cautious.]

But I was struck in the reviews, both positive and negative, by how hook-line-and-sinker-like have the reviewers swallowed the false history the movie portrays. Here, at the Daily Caller, is a point by point refutation of the lies the movie holds out as truths. It is a long list. Here is another similar debunking at World Affairs Journal. But, as a counter-example, here is a negative review which says that President Bush said in the famous 16 words in the 2003 state of the nation address that Iraq had bought yellowcake. No. He said sought, which was true. Wilson, when he wasn't misspeaking (lying) about his nepotistic trip to Niger, said he saw no evidence of a sale of yellowcake. No kidding, Sherlock. We never claimed the Iraqis bought the stuff.

I'll have to skip the usual review of the acting, writing, cinematography, etc. as I don't know anything about them. Valerie Plame is played by dead ringer Naomi Watts, an English born Aussie actress I quite like and have since her early role in Flirting. Sean Penn, while not actually visually similar to Joe Wilson, is also a good choice as a blustery fellow with no clue (how else to explain Penn's enthusiastic support for the petty tyrant Hugo Chavez?) The director is Doug Liman who did the good Swingers and Go, the probably OK The Bourne Identity and the horrible Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Jumper. He seems to think he has made a movie showing the truth. He's wrong.

The real problem with the making of the movie is that it's about 2 years too late. President Bush is no longer our president. The war in Iraq has been a success, for now (the future is cloudy). A Hitler like tyrant was removed from office and executed and 26 Million freed from a murderous and debilitating tyranny. There will never be a resuscitation of Sadam's weapons programs nor will Baghdad again be the retirement home of the world's worst terrorists. All good things, I think. The best thing of Gulf War II was that we took on an al Qaeda franchise and defeated it soundly. We proved the strong horse there. Al Qaeda still exists but its myrmidons are not mounting the sort of attacks they were capable of 10 years ago.

Oh, and there's this. Scooter Libby did not 'out' Valerie Plame as an analyst for the CIA; Richard Armitage told the late Robert Novak where she worked and Novak published that information. Neither Armitage nor Novak supported the invasion of Iraq. Neither Novak nor Armitage were willing to carry the White House's water. The idea that a Bush administration member (Scooter doing Dick Cheney's bidding) told people where Ms. Plame worked in retaliation for Joe Wilson's NYT piece attacking the White House regarding WMD intelligence, although well ingrained in the public consciousness (as evidenced above), is just not true. That inconvenient fact would seem a problem for a wrenched-from-6 year-old-headlines, true story of the supposed dirty deeds our government is capable of.

The one question I have is why were neither Dick Armitage nor Robert Novak prosecuted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for revealing where Valerie Plame worked? Now there's a story worth researching; and it would probably make a movie just as exciting and fulfilling as Fair Game.

UPDATE: According to Box Office Mojo for Friday, 11/19/10, Fair Game, in over 350 theaters now, broke the top ten (tenth) and has taken in nearly 2 million of the 22 million it cost to make this lying docudrama. I guess that's according to plan, but something tells me this sort of box office receipts will fail to make anyone, who backed this pre-Thanksgiving turkey, rich. I could have told them that years ago.


The two actors turn in extremely excellent performances that should be recognized.
Even if the movie sucks, there can be things which help to soften the blow. I have no doubt Watts was fine in the role and perhaps Penn did good work as well. But the fact is that the film tries to sell a lie as reality and has to ignore the inconvenient facts that there was no retaliation, just gossip.
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