film 7 of 7

Fair Game

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 21, 2015

All the President’s Men comparisons may be a bit hasty—Penn’s final speech, for instance, is way too spot on, the Sam Shepard intervention comes as predictably as the sparrows to Capistrano, and Doug Liman is no Alan Pakula/Gordon Willis. (This site deplores inappropriate directo-centrism; let’s add William Goldman to that list of conspicuous auteurs.) Plus which, they are really straining to compare the WMD’s to Nixon’s proto-creation of a proto-police state. (Hmm…)

Still, Fair Game, which is a dramatization of that infuriating and dispiriting Valerie Plame/Joseph Wilson/Scooter Libby story, is pretty intelligent, timely, motivational. Instead of following the money it follows those aluminum tubes, which ultimately take it to the same place. Imperiled democracy, that is, hanging by a thread in a way that the unreasonable right seems unwilling or unable to acknowledge. It all turns out okay, this time. Makes you think, though, especially with the current climate. We’re in terrible trouble, aren’t we? And did it really turn out okay? The dispiriting fact of the collateral damage in Iran suggests how permeable national borders really are, and how the “we” in that sentence about terrible trouble is way more than just national, or partisan. Those compromised, endangered and in some cases assassinated Iraquis certainly put a damper on the film’s erstwhile happy ending.

Well, then. What can be done, in the end? There’s a muted suggestion as to what the answer to that question might be in a powerful little line that comes at the end of the movie. “You did good,” he says, simply. This is actually a really stirring sentiment, and one that great and small alike might well aspire to, and then actually accomplish. For me this exchange was strangely and stirringly reminiscent of Meredith Baxter Birney’s tremendous declaration, way back in Pakula/Willis/Goldman, 1976. “This is an honest house,” she said, in defiance of the corrupted exercise of power that was raging all about.

Hmm. Maybe those All the President’s Men comparisons are kind of apt after all.