Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Movie Review: Fair Game

I’m apolitical. A lot of things led me to that life choice, but most significantly, I found that I just couldn’t force myself to care anymore. Politics has a funny way of letting you down. One man can’t make a difference, and any difference a group makes is just a drop at the bottom of the bucket on the floor of the Pacific.

But, let’s just say I’m apolitical, and it takes a lot to make me angry anymore. It takes a lot to get me riled up about anything in the realm of politics. It takes something extraordinary to make me mad.

Fair Game made me mad.

Naomi Watts plays Valerie Plame, a CIA operative outed by an official at the White House in retaliation for her husband’s claim that President Bush lied about the possibility of a nuclear Iraq. Sean Penn plays her husband, Joe Wilson.

Wilson is a man who knows what is right and does it. It takes Plame a little longer. The movie follows the couple as they withstand death threats, cries of liar and un-American, and professional and personal blackballing.

I will not, however, go into the plot any more than that. If you were alive at the time and cared at all, then you know more about the whole affair than I could tell you in a movie synopsis.

So, let me tell you what made me mad.

1) Personally, I do not believe that Iraq ever had weapons nor was the country ever a threat to the United States, least of all an imminent threat that required pre-emptive action. That belief does not matter. We’re in Iraq, and we’re there to stay for the foreseeable future.

2) This movie does not care whether or not President Bush lied or the administration lied or the whole government lied. It is about two government employees who saw the facts and saw what they perceived to be lies. Plame and Wilson are not anti-Americans.

3) If this movie is not about WMDs and is not about the President, then what is it about? It is about a culture in which intelligent public discourse is dead and the talking points that replaced it are pathetic.

I came of age during the time this film is set: 2001-2003. I watched the President address the nation and congress. I watched the bombs fall on Iraq. I watched those who questioned the official stance get dragged through the mud. And, I watched it all on a 19-inch color screen.

You can’t blame the government for wanting to stay the government any more than you can blame a puppy for messing on the rug. It’s what it does. If the government’s best way to stay in power is to promote a war, it will do what it must.

The rest of us should have known better, and some of us are paid to know better. I mean the journalists. I mean those whose jobs rely on truth and information.

A journalist is a watchdog. That’s why the best don’t get invited to parties. People shouldn’t like journalists, and for the most part, they don’t. But, they should damn well trust them. The job of the journalist is not to tow the line but to see where the line leads and report it.

I try to avoid using my personal life when reviewing movies. I love the craft of film and try to review movies that are well made with good stories. If you want to know if this movie is well made, then I can tell you that it is. Watts and Penn are magnificent. Doug Liman’s direction serves the story by staying out of the way. The editing is clear, concise, and breakneck.

Does it tell a good story? You bet. Is it a story that I am happy to see? No. Is it important? Without a doubt. I do my best to leave my heart at home and watch movies with my head, but if a film can penetrate my chest like this one did, it will still find a heart. This movie is personal to me.

On Thursday this week, I will graduate from college with a degree in journalism. What does that degree mean? If we allow the discussion in this country to move away from what matters and toward what is popular, toward what people agree on, then my degree is not worth the paper on which it is printed.

Yeah, that makes me angry.

See it: absolutely.

1 comment:

MichaelLeydon said...

Excellent and interesting post. Anger and insight are the foundations of great creative careers. You prefer using your power of intellect in your reviews but willingly include your heart when it is touched. A sure sign of a competent and well-grounded individual. I don't know what your degree is worth but you are certain to excel in your endeavors. Congratulations on your degree but even more on your discovery of the power of righteous anger.