As a covert officer in the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division, Valerie Plame leads an investigation into the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Valerie’s husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, is drawn into the investigation to substantiate an alleged sale of enriched uranium from Niger. But when the administration ignores his findings and uses the issue to support the call to war, Joe writes a New York Times editorial outlining his conclusions and ignites a firestorm of controversy.
Genres: Drama, Thriller, Adaptation, Biopic and Politics; Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.; Release Date: November 5th, 2010 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language.
Starring: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Noah Emmerich, Liraz Charchi, Nicholas Sadler
Directed by: Doug Liman
We saw this in the theater the first weekend it was out. There was a decent crowd, but the theater was not packed.
The movie follows the story based on testimony and other public information.. On the other “side,” we have a list of claims that even at the time were discredited and are still discredited, but there is no “version” of how and why this country went to war with Iraq. The film leaves no argument because there is no other side. And to date, we still do not have a reason as to why the administration chose to stand before the world and make claims they knew to be discredited.
The events leading up to the declaration of war take up about half the film’s running time. In the first half, we see what Valerie Plame does at the CIA. It’s surprisingly detailed and candid and came across as authentic. It shows how operatives are often recruited to work with inteligence services. While these various operatives are fiction, we assume they are close to the truth. And the outcome for them when the Bush Administration’s cover is blown makes one very ashamed of our leaders.
The second half of the film omits the sensational allegations concerning journalists Judith Miller and Robert Novak since neither of the principles in the film ever had contact with them. Valarie Plame and Joe Wilson were only their victims. And as the heads begin to roll the relationship of the Wilson’s takes center stage. While that’s interesting, it’s not what concerns us the most in this story. Joe Wilson, played by Sean Penn, is more gentle than the person we saw on media outlets. While Penn conveys the idealism of Wilson.
Naomi Watts, as always, gives a terrific portrayal of a woman who lives two lives. The Valerie Plame we saw at the Senate Hearings is in Watt’s performance, but we also see the strength, intelligence and commitment she makes to a job that requires her to play many sides of the same fence. For instance, there’s a domestic scene where Wilson complains about the danger of his wife’s job and he never knows where she’s going or if he’ll ever see her again. Plame patiently listens and then says, “I’m going to Cleveland.” It’s a rich and likely accurate illustration of what it must be like to be married to someone who works for the CIA.
As he always does, Penn just stepped right into the persona of Joe Wilson. I don’t know how he does it, but he looked a lot like Wison, and just seemed to have the mannerisms I remember from Wilson’s various TV appearances down pat. The guy is just an amazing actor all around.
In the end, we leave the theater hearing only one side of the argument, and that’s because the Bush Administration has never been called to account for why they insisted on the war with Iraq. We do see why they needed to destroy the lives of these two people, and in doing so harmed much more than a married couple in Washington, DC. This is well acted, tightly written and directed with straight-forward finesse making it one of the finest films of the year.