In case you've tuned out the news, America is the midst of two wars and the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. The vicious midterm elections are over. So maybe it's not the most profitable time to release a film about "Plamegate" and the phony evidence that led us into Iraq.
Valerie Plame was a CIA operative working undercover to stop terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons. Her husband was a former ambassador with ground-level contacts in the Third World. When the couple reported that Saddam Hussein did not have a viable nuclear weapons program, the White House smeared them, endangering their lives and the lives of their contacts overseas.
Yet Plame and Joseph Wilson, the couple whose story inspired the new political thriller "Fair Game," said in a recent phone interview that the lessons of the scandal are timeless.
"Our hope is that the viewers will be engaged and will talk about it afterward without feeling like they've been hit over the head with a partisan viewpoint," Plame said. "It's ultimately about power and the abuse of power and speaking truth to power. Obviously, this happened under the (President George W. Bush's) administration, but similar things can and do happen under other administrations. The struggle to define checks and balances started with the founding of our country and will continue as long as we're a democracy."
Wilson said the movie reflects the checks and balances between truth and entertainment.
"There was a conscious decision on the part of the director, the screenwriters and ourselves to make this movie as accurate as possible and still make it an entertaining thriller."
The couple said they were particularly impressed by the actors who portrayed them.
"Naomi Watts did a wonderful job," Wilson said. "She captured Valerie's inner courage and strength of character as well as her ability to manage myriad tasks at the same time, including two twins under the age of 10."
Plame said: "And Sean Penn really captured Joe's intensity and his breadth of knowledge, although in real life he's funnier and not so belligerent with our dinner-party guests."
"But in the context of this story, that's appropriate," Wilson said, "because I actually do know quite a bit. I was, after all, the last American diplomat to confront Saddam Hussein when he was president. I spent 2½ years there. So I hope that people walk away from the movie and take these issues seriously and get involved as citizens. I still believe we haven't reached the stage like the Roman Empire. when they brought out the gladiators to fight the lions and keep the rabble distracted from the realities of life."