Fair Game (2010) | Review by Mark Leidner
Fair Game suffered from a fair bit of documentary syndrome. That’s when a movie is boring because the stage of the events it depicts is the very reality you go to see the movie in. So in a way, you always know a documentary’s outcome—everything that happens in non-fiction cinema necessarily culminates in only one thing—your attendance to the movie the event spawned. Whereas in a fictional thriller like the far superior but much lower-rated The Next Three Days, the world of the movie is not your world, and so its ultimate outcome remains unknown until you see and hear it. Therefore fictional movies create a porous experience into which you can be absorbed, but non-fictional movies only add another layer of reality to an already layer-packed reality.
Naomi Watts and Sean Penn both give good but not spectacular performances only because their characters are rarely challenging. There is a final scene where Naomi and Sean have a tearful face-off / embrace that I found beautiful because the complexity of each of their characters was finally fully inhabited. I actually got a little teary and I hope Hannah didn’t see this, although later in the car I told her this was my favorite scene and she was outraged—as if I had just confessed to having lied about WMDs. Unfortunately Fair Game presents little of this dark footnote in American History in a refreshing way. The media is shrill and vapid, the Republicans are slimy, the war is wrong, the heroes are good, the truth is buried. All of which is and was true, but because the livid liberals and smug moderates this movie was made for already felt that way about it, this was a bit like eating popcorn while watching a 108-minute mirror.