“Fair Game” a riveting spy saga

In "Fair Game," Doug Liman mostly avoids delivering a political treatise.

Instead, he strips the Valerie Plame affair down to its essential elements: the bare facts of the case, the uneasy mix of the public and private lives of a D.C.-area family where Mom is a spy and the life-changing upheaval -- including a marital rift -- caused when her identity is blown for political purposes. This allows a viewer to better understand these two people who were so much the center of attention in the U.S. seven years ago.

Whether moviegoers even today can look at this real-life couple, extremely well-played by Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, without the distortion of political beliefs is uncertain. Nonetheless, Liman and his collaborators strive to locate the human element amid the clutter of spin, hypocrisy and partisan rhetoric.

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