Cast: Naomi Watts
Sam Shepard, Ty Burrell, Noah Emmerich
Bruce McGill, Brooke Smith
Perhaps casting Sean Penn as former US diplomat Joseph Wilson isn't the most subtle way of expressing your film's liberal agenda. Not only is the actor one of the most politically outspoken celebrities in the world, he also has become a universal symbol for portraying tragic heroes who more often than not are screwed by the system they're trying to change.
What continues being remarkable about Penn though is the way in which he makes each of these characters completely his own.
As Wilson, he's the epitome of suburban discontent. When we see him take on each of his dinner parties as if he was taking part in a huge political debate we understand this is a man who has fully assumed the idea that democracy begins with each of us.
It's even a more pleasant surprise when we see him become "human" when he's with his wife Valerie Plamer (Watts). She's a CIA agent who spends half her time traveling around the world organizing top secret missions for the government.
When the Iraq war breaks and Wilson makes it known that after investigating abroad, no evidence of actual weapons of mass destruction were found (which instantly might remind you of Penn's 2004 Oscar acceptance speech), his wife is outed by government officials and their life becomes a harsh "he said they said" game as they face the fact that they have been betrayed by the very system they were trying to protect.
This turns Fair Game into a strange hybrid movie that's one part thriller, two parts domestic drama and a lot of political outrage. In a time when films choose to be so blatantly subtle or encode everything through alien, monster or fantastic metaphors, it's actually refreshing to see a movie that expresses its deep dissatisfaction with the state of the world.
Watts gives yet another electrifying performance, making Valerie a woman who has to choose where her loyalties stand under the eye of the press, the government and family.
Few performers would be able to expose themselves so much without recurring to cheap trickery and mannerisms. Watching the actress as Valerie is watching a testament for the way in which films have always been the most powerful medium of ideas.