Fair Game

Like many directors, Doug Liman wants to prove himself a ‘serious’ film-maker by tackling weightier fare.  Not that his previous films weren’t as worthy, although Fair Game affords him to flex his dramatic muscles.  Constructed around the memoirs of someone boldly questioning the genesis of the 2003 Iraq invasion, it proves his creativity in another area.  Although not as memorable as he would perhaps wish, the glut of similar films seems to have blunted his message about a war still polarising public opinion.

Hearing President George W Bush declare Iraq has traded in nuclear weapons, former Ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) knows this isn’t the case.  Writing his findings in a newspaper article, he has no idea of the fury he unleashes.  Working for the CIA, his wife Valerie (Naomi Watts) becomes a vulnerable target from those in the corridors of power.  Leaking her secret identity to the media, a personal and professional cataclysm ensues.  With death threats and deceit at every turn, Valerie and Joe attempt to stand up to those abusing their authority before all they cherish vanishes.

There’s no doubt the outrage committed against this couple in the name of ‘protecting freedom’ was abhorrent.  Doug Liman certainly seems quite aggrieved by this and continually rails against the many injustices of this recent era.  Making such events interesting without turning into an overly long lecture is a difficult task he only just manages to do.  This is why Fair Game is a lot less impactful as it should be as his focus on the dubious politicking and marital traumas slowly seeps any tension from its stirring premise.

The actors do their best with the material with Penn and Watts effectively conveying the frustration and alarm of what they face.  Of the two, Valerie comes across as the more sympathetic victim as Joe’s fearless assertiveness makes him seem almost as arrogant as those he goes up against.  Adding some substance to their plight is the strand dealing with people’s complacency to what they’re being told.  This knowledge apathy seems to become almost another villain of the piece with the control of information the government’s most potent weapon.

Not quite the emotionally gripping drama Fair Game promises to be, Liman provides an adequate story of frayed morals and righteous indignation.   Despite this, hopefully it will engage viewers to wonder how it could have happened and how such incidents never occur again.

Rating out of 10:  6

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

If the term ‘creating accounting’ is used in the business world, then ‘creative editing’ is one aptly applying to movies.  There’s certainly much of it in Harry Potter’s seventh adventure – so much so it’s been split in two.  But has it been done for the love of the book or money?  The studio would like everyone believe the former, although unfortunately the latter more than describes this instalment.  Not that it’s a complete waste but the studio’s demand to edit rather than produce an enchanting fantasy has diluted the soul the series once had.

After evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has gained control of the Ministry of Magic, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) takes affirmative action.  Helped by his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), he searches for Voldemort’s fabled Horcruxes – tools he uses to attain immortality.  Whilst doing so they come across the Deathly Hallows – a trio of magical objects crucial in defeating their enemies.  With time running out and Voldemort’s minions closing in, Harry must use every trick he has learnt in order to prevent their plans for world domination.

At this point in the franchise’s life, it’s now only the fans who are watching.  They’ll make Deathly Hallows Part 1 another massive Potter hit, although this is probably the first time they may feel they’ve been taken for a ride.  Much like the magic within, it’s like a huge confidence trick with the ads promising action but the reality delivering little.  The first hour involving Harry’s escape from Voldemort’s Death Eaters and infiltration of the Ministry of Magic are great – the classic style everyone knows full of tension and purpose.  It’s when they begin their journey in finding the Horcruxes events fall apart.

The next ninety minutes drags proceedings to a virtual stand-still.  This is clearly evident in sequences involving the main trio who ponder their lives and the mission ahead.  The Potter series is meant to entertain with these scenes unfurling the magic the series has worked so hard to maintain.  Part 1 is really just a curtain-raiser for Part 2, with the exposition and dramatic drive all front-loaded so the series can end with a flourish next year.  It’s difficult not to feel cheated by this, although the special effects and photography are still awe-inspiring even if the plodding script isn’t.

The failure to engage the viewer through its entirety is this film’s major mistake.  Blame should go to a studio targeting audience’s pockets than their hearts as Part 1 represents the first misstep the series has made in its journey towards its anticipated conclusion.

Rating out of 10:  5