Friday, April 29, 2011
Fair Game -- authority, truth and lies
Director: Doug Lima, 2010. (PG-13)
“The first casualty when war comes is truth.” Senator Hiram Johnson said this in 1917 when the United States entered the first world war. It is still true today. This becomes apparent in Lima’s true conspiracy thriller set in 2003 just as the United States was about to go to war with Iraq over Saddam Hussein’s WMDs (weapons of mass destruction).
Fair Game tells the true story of Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), a covert CIA agent who is outed by a leak from a government source because her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), wrote an op-ed piece criticizing the government. Though the story is known and recent, Lima’s film is taut and riveting.
The movie begins with Plame on a mission in Kuala Lumpur, seeking to turn a businessman into a spy for America. Acting as a venture capitalist, her cover, she deceives him but puts him into a position where he cannot refuse her “offer.”
A subsequent scene shows her back home in a restaurant with her husband and friends. As the conversation turns to politics and the impending conflict with Iraq (this being just two years after 9/11), she can offer no opinion, “being” a simple businesswoman. Her husband, though, gets drawn into the political debate, to her chagrin. This simple scene defines the couple admirably. She is calmly deceptive, able to easily handle the lies that she must tell and the false front she must maintain. But he is hotly truthful, sharing opinions even when they hurt friends or his own marriage.
Then the Bush administration goes to war to find the WMDs. To support this military campaign, they point to this sale of yellowcake uranium. Seeing this on TV, Wilson cannot believe they have ignored his report and turned their backs on the truth. Against advice from close friends, and without consulting his wife, he pens a first-person account to refute what the government is saying. In effect, he is standing up on his own to the full power of the political machine in Washington.
Yet when an individual goes up against the President and his advisers, the stakes are high, and the kid gloves are removed. With the implied backing of the Vice President, and with the full knowledge of Scooter Libby (David Andrews) his advisor, the government retaliates. A source leaks the “fact” that Wilson was sent to Niger by his wife, a CIA operative. In this one article, Plame’s career is derailed and her ethics are questioned. Moreover, as Wilson fights back through TV interviews, the government aggressively attacks Wilson by downgrading and defaming Plame’s career.
The authority of the government derives from the people. It serves the people and the people deserve the truth. Too often we have become immune to the truth, so satiated with lies force-fed us through the media that we no longer know what is true and what is not. Jesus said “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32). We can know the Truth in the person of Jesus (Jn. 14:6). He is the creator and sustainer of all that is, so derives authority only from his father, our creator God. He is the one leader we can be absolutely certain of, who we can follow with no qualms. He never lies (Tit. 1:2), for his nature is truth. Plame said, “You have to know when you’re lying and remember what is the truth.” Better to simply speak and remember the truth and live a transparent life that has no place for lying.
Even as the government is attacking Wilson and Plame, she is taking their children and leaving him. Their home has become a circus of reporters, so she abandons it, putting a large question mark over their marriage. Yet while their marriage hangs in the balance, Iraqi civilians wait for her promised help. Having pressured an Iraqi to return home to seek needed intelligence, Plame had promised to get this woman’s family out of Baghdad. But when Plame’s true job came to light, the CIA washed their hands of her, terminating this and other operations she had been leading.