By Dave Woodhall.
Recent events will have helped this film get a bit more publicity, as it reminds us of what can go wrong when big, self-important countries start sticking their noses in where only they think they’re wanted.
It all starts a few weeks after 9/11, with the Dubya administration making plans for the invasion of Iraq, and they do seem to have been put together quickly considering nobody had advance warning of the Twin Towers attacks. CIA agent Valerie Plame, played by Naomi Watts, is tasked with gaining access to experts within Saddam’s nuclear programme, which is seen to have been scrapped several years earlier. Her findings aren’t popular, and neither is her husband Ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) when he discovers that Iraq’s supposed dealing in uranium which led to the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ claims had never happened.
We already know what comes next, or at least part of it. A disgruntled Wilson goes public, the US government in retaliation allows his wife to be outed as a spy in order to discredit the couple. Reality has to be temporarily suspended here, as a spy and an ambassador seem surprised that their government can behave so vindictively. Then we’re back in Hollywood, as the couple find their marriage cracking under the strain until Valerie has a heart to heart with her wise ol’ pop (played by San Shepard, who has wise-ol’-pop-by-numbers off to a fine art). Destined to live happily ever after, the couple are reconciled as Joe becomes the darling of the American liberal left and conscience of a nation.
It’s the sort of story a decent writer could knock off in a couple of days only to have it rejected for being too obvious. That’s not saying it’s a bad film, but for such a collection of clichés to be memorable Watts and Penn would have to put in the sort of performance they’re capable of with better material. If the good guys didn’t exactly win in the end, though, at least they came through, so you can leave this film with a smile on your face, if only a rueful one.