Movie review: Naomi Watts is a spy in ‘Fair Game’

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Drama. Starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. Directed by Doug Liman. (PG-13. 108 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)

Bad old days are too quickly forgotten, but “Fair Game” is there to remind us – not only of the manipulation of evidence and the falsehoods that led to the Iraq war but the high cost of telling the truth in a time of fear. The story of Valerie Plame Wilson and Joseph Wilson gets the big-screen treatment in this fast-moving political drama from director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”), and the result is riveting entertainment.

As most will remember, Valerie Wilson, who has also been referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA agent whose cover was blown in 2003 by a leak traced to the Bush White House. Joseph Wilson, her husband, was a former ambassador sent to Niger by the CIA to investigate an alleged sale of uranium to Iraq, which turned out to be completely false. When this false claim turned up in the president’s 2003 State of the Union address, Joseph Wilson set the record straight in a New York Times opinion piece. The leak of Valerie Wilson’s CIA affiliation was thought to be in revenge for her husband’s whistle-blowing.

Valerie Plame Wilson (Naomi Watts) and Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn) are presented as sober people who, in their different professional capacities, took the Iraq threat seriously and went about investigating each claim that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons program. But because Joseph Wilson told the truth, they both found themselves all alone, up against the government and its media sounding board.

Full story: Movie review: Naomi Watts is a spy in ‘Fair Game’