“Fair Game” (2010). Cast: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Noah Emmerich, Michael Kelly, David Andrews, Bruce McGill, Liraz Charhi, Khaled Nabawy, Adam LeFevre, Sam Shepard, Polly Holliday. Director: Doug Liman. Screenplay: Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth. Source Books: Joseph Wilson, The Politics of Truth, and Valerie Plame, Fair Game. www.fairgame-movie.com/
What is truth? That’s a question that philosophers, theologians and scientists have pondered without resolution for centuries. And when that question is examined in a conscious creation context, a philosophy that maintains we each create our own reality, definitive answers become even more elusive, for if we’re each responsible for manifesting what we experience, one could argue that truth is a relative matter, not a universal one (even if that goes against what most of us would like to think). That being the case, then, what we ultimately see as “truth” is something that comes down to the beliefs we hold, the fuel that makes conscious creation possible. That notion provides a significant metaphysical undercurrent in the story line of the new political thriller, “Fair Game.”
“Fair Game” recounts the back story of “Plamegate,” an incident that captured national headlines during the administration of President George W. Bush. The affair centered on Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), a covert CIA operative whose identity was publicly revealed—by name—in newspaper reports stemming from what were believed to be apparently intentional leaks by high-ranking (though never definitively identified) administration officials. Those leaks were allegedly initiated in retribution for the actions of Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), who blew the whistle on the administration’s faulty pre-war assessments of Iraq’s WMD arsenals shortly after the 2003 U.S. invasion began.
In the run-up to the Iraq War, the Bush administration attempted to use trumped-up “facts” about Saddam Hussein’s weapons capabilities, including the supposed acquisition of huge stockpiles of yellowcake uranium from the African nation of Niger to be used in nuclear weapons production, to justify its pre-emptive military actions. Wilson, who had firsthand knowledge that the administration’s contentions were grossly exaggerated, brought the misinformation to light in a New York Times op-ed piece, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” an act that allegedly led to the leaks shortly thereafter. As a consequence, Wilson’s reputation and new business venture were seriously harmed. But, even worse, Plame’s cover was compromised, leaving her exposed and endangering the lives of her contacts in the field, including some who were in the process of gathering sensitive intelligence information on the ground inside Iraq at the time (Liraz Charhi, Khaled Nabawy).
In addition to recounting the events that made headlines, “Fair Game” also shows the incident’s impact on the family’s home life. The film thus takes a very public news event and brings it down to a personal level, showing the struggles that the couple experienced as a result of the administration’s hard-ball tactics and the incessant, biased press coverage that followed (much of which painted the couple as unpatriotic, at best, and traitors, at worst). Death threats, phone harassment and constant media scrutiny ensued, making everyday life impossible. Eventually, however, the incident prompted a grand jury investigation and government hearings at which Plame testified, bringing the whole ugly affair to light. While no one in government was officially indicted for leaking Plame’s name, the probe did result in an investigation, and subsequent conviction, of Vice-presidential Chief of Staff Scooter Libby (David Andrews) on felony charges related to the incident.
As viewers watch the narrative unfold on screen, it’s quite intriguing to see the role that beliefs play in the film’s story line, both from a theoretical standpoint and in relation to the particulars of the plot. As in everyday life, we’re posed with choices on what beliefs we choose to adopt and which ones we opt to ignore.
For example, on the one hand, we witness intelligence-gathering insiders diligently working at attempting to develop accurate assessments of what was going on inside Iraq, based on what was thought to be reasonably reliable field information. From that, they sincerely came to believe that Saddam Hussein’s weapons capabilities were far less menacing than initially thought. In going about their work, they simply did their jobs of collecting data and assessing it to arrive at conclusions based on the impressions they received. They operated in true conscious creation fashion, drawing upon their intellect and intuition to shape the beliefs they would use in making official recommendations to higher-ups.
By contrast, we simultaneously witness an administration hell-bent on going to war, pursuing a course of action that it was willing to justify by virtually any means, including the manipulation of data to formulate “beliefs” that allegedly supported its objective. It then unhesitatingly sold these beliefs to the public (even if the underlying information didn’t support their viability) to gain support for their materialization. Anyone who didn’t buy in to this “official” view was suddenly demonized (including the intelligence experts who were charged with gathering the information to be used in formulating official policy in the first place). Since Wilson’s actions ran counter to the official beliefs that everyone was supposed to accept without question, he and anyone closely associated with him (such as his wife) were suddenly “fair game” for ridicule, retribution and unfair scrutiny. The negative public reaction to their allegedly disloyal actions, in turn, lent more support to the administration’s official stance, further strengthening the beliefs behind it—that is, until the supposed sources of the leaks were themselves revealed.
In both sides of this incident, the power driving their associated beliefs was palpable. That’s important to recognize, not only here but also in any situation we encounter, for the impact that results from that kind of power can be significant, as both of the foregoing scenarios illustrate.
So which set of beliefs was “correct” in this controversy? It’s pretty obvious from the film (and the way events ultimately played out) which one prevailed, but no matter which side each of us came down on at the time these events unfolded, it’s important to realize that the views we each held about the war and this scandal were, at their core, based on our individual beliefs. Each of our respective “truths” ultimately rested with whatever contentions we bought into at the time.
Regardless of how one views this incident, the Plamegate affair (and its depiction here) nevertheless helps to illustrate a significant conscious creation principle: Considering the power of beliefs and the fallout that can materialize from them, it’s vital that we gather and assess the input of our intellect and intuition carefully, thoughtfully and genuinely to develop informed beliefs. This is especially important when the stakes are high, and given the magnitude of the stakes involved in matters as critical as war and peace, personal and professional reputations, and even one’s peace of mind, it’s easy to see why.
So how accurate is this film in depicting the events that transpired? That’s hard to say, since movies such as this always bill themselves as “based on actual events,” a disclaimer that provides some convenient wiggle room for invoking cinematic license. That issue is further compounded by the fact that I (and probably most viewers) neither know the principals personally nor was a party to the story’s particulars. And even if I had been closely acquainted with the situation, who’s to say that I would have been able to discern the “real” truth of things; after all, many of the characters in this film are involved in the murky world of intelligence gathering, a process often rife with intentional deception and misdirection, as illustrated by Plame’s own chameleon-like ability to easily adopt fictional personas and to convincingly pass herself off as a mild-mannered suburban housewife while all the time engaging in highly secretive activities, circumstances sure to affect whatever beliefs I might have held about all this. In the end, then, I guess the degree to which one assumes that a picture like this is presenting an accurate portrayal of “the truth” ultimately depends on the beliefs one holds going in and subsequently forms while watching the movie. From where I stand, I believe it presents an accurate depiction of events (and does so quite well). But then that’s just my opinion.
“Fair Game” is a gripping political thriller, as well as an excellent examination of how a married couple holds up under pressure, an unusual fusion of narratives, but one that works well. Its script is clear and concise, especially in its presentation of the complicated political and intelligence-gathering maneuverings. But its real strength rests with its performances. Watts’s portrayal of Plame has Oscar nomination written all over it, and her fellow cast members, while effective in their roles, were wise enough to let their lead shine.
Truth is something that we all must ultimately decide for ourselves, and this picture shows just how important it is for us to get things right with regard to it. If we don’t, one day we just may find ourselves to be our own fair game.
Copyright © 2010, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.