| Two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn and Oscar nominee Naomi Watts are reunited on screen for the first time since “21 Grams” as husband and wife in this political drama directed by Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”).
Former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson (Penn) is sent by the CIA in 2002 on a fact-finding assignment to the western African nation of Niger. He determines that a rumored sale of 500 tons of enriched uranium to Iraq that would have enabled Saddam Hussein to build nuclear bombs could not have happened.
When George W. Bush labels Saddam as a monster and begins the bombing of Baghdad, Wilson writes the op-ed article “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” in The New York Times saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq.
In retaliation for Wilson telling the truth, a “smear campaign” traced to Lewis “Scooter” Libby (David Andrews), an assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney, resulted in Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame (Watts) being exposed as a CIA agent. This public disclosure jeopardized the lives of the individual informants she came into contact with all over the globe. Plame received death threats, and the situation put great strain on their marriage.
Screenwriting brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth did a fabulous job adapting the screenplay from the memoirs of Wilson (“The Politics of Truth”) and Plame (“Fair Game”).
Archival footage of the real people and events is masterfully inserted into the narrative.
Plame is portrayed as a tough, responsible and serious government employee. She is a true American heroine balancing an important job with raising a loving family. Sam Shepard plays Valerie’s dad, Sam, and he puts a punctuation mark on the story with a memorable cameo. Penn proves yet again that he is among the elite actors in Hollywood. Watts holds up her end with a brilliant portrayal. Their chemistry is scintillating.
The movie’s most important message is that the public should demand the truth. This compelling film reaches out to the audience and instills a feeling of great pride in being an American. It puts an emphasis on freedom of expression and all the other things that make our country great.
No movie this year has done a better job of entertaining, educating and informing the audience. It deserves to be in the discussion for Best Picture of the year. It earns a spot on my list of the 10 best motion pictures of 2010.
Opening exclusively at the Glenwood Arts and AMC Barrywoods.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"