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Movie review: Loving the Plame 'Game'

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Fair Game
Directed by Doug Liman
Starring Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Sam Shepard, David Andrews, Bruce McGill
Rated PG-13
3 stars

***

Making a movie with an overt political agenda is a risky venture. Take certain incorrect steps and you’ll end up with an alienating polemic that sacrifices entertainment essentials to make some kind of point.

Fortunately, director Doug Liman sidesteps that precarious obstacle in “Fair Game,” his depiction of the Valerie Plame affair.

While his movie — adapted from the infamously outed ex-CIA agent’s book “Fair Game” and husband Joseph Wilson’s “The Politics of Truth” — leaves no doubt where it stands, it simultaneously works as a sort of globe-trotting thriller in reverse and a portrait of a marriage under strain.

Naomi Watts plays Valerie as a tough, committed officer who loved her work on nuclear nonproliferation and had a difficult time adjusting on multiple fronts when a 2003 Bush administration leak ended her career and threatened her family’s safety.

Without going overboard, Sean Penn exudes righteous fury as Wilson, who hits back at the efforts of the villainous Scooter Libby (David Andrews) with a vengeance.

Liman evokes the thrill of the nuke chase that sent Valerie across the world and the helplessness that comes when one’s life’s work is being stripped away.

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