Doug Liman started his career directing cool indie-spirited flicks like Swingers and Go. But while he may have birthed the Bourne franchise on the big screen with The Bourne Identity, his recent films like Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Jumper suggest he's lost some of the rebellion and commitment that ignited his earlier work.
With Fair Game Liman tackles a story he's clearly much more engaged with, but it's still a surprise to see his name in the Cannes program against the likes of Woody Allen, Ken Loach and Abbas Kiarostami. But in this film's selection is suggested a smart return to form. A film less mired by studio notes and high-concept effects. What Fair Game delivers doesn't quite live up to that promise, but it does introduce a director ready to move into his own, and above-the-title. It's mature, smart and engaging and, critically, strikes a new tone for Liman's work, suggesting he's got plenty of versatility.
Based on the true story of Valerie Plame, it's the tale of an undercover CIA operative (Plame, played by Naomi Watts) whose cover is blown by a government source in a national newspaper. It's a reaction to her husband's (Wilson, played by Sean Penn) claim in an article that George W. Bush's reference to weapons of mass destruction in Africa in his 2003 State of the Union address was false, because Wilson was the one responsible for the fact-finding mission which turned up no such evidence.