UK Cinema Releases: Friday 11th March 2011

Battle: Los Angeles (Sony Pictures): Sci-fi action film about a Marine platoon fighting an alien invasion in Los Angeles. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman and starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan and Michael Pena.[12A] [Reviews] [Trailer]

Fair Game (Entertainment One): Political drama about CIA agent Valerie Plame and her diplomat husband in the run up to the Iraq War. Directed by Doug Liman and starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. [12A] [Reviews] [Trailer] [Read our review]

The Company Men (Universal): Drama about workers struggling to cope with corporate lay offs during the current recession. Directed by John Wells and starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper and Rosemary DeWitt.[15] [Reviews] [Trailer] [Read our review here]

Hall Pass (warner Bros.): Comedy about a married man granted the opportunity to have an affair by his wife. Directed by The Farrelly Brothers and starring Owen Wilson and Christina Applegate. [15] [Reviews] [Trailer]

The Resident (Icon): Horror film about a young doctor suspects she may not be alone in her new Brooklyn apartment. Directed by Antti Jokinen and starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Christopher Lee. [15] [Reviews] [Trailer]


His & Hers (Element Pictures Distribution): Documentary about Irish women and their views on men. Directed by Ken Wardrop. [Trailer]

Legacy: Black Ops (Revolver): Conpsiracy thriller about a solider on the verge of a breakdown. Directed by Thomas Ikimi and starring Idris Elba, Eamon Walker and Monique Gabriela. [Trailer] [Reviews]

Norwegian Wood (Soda Pictures): Drama based on the 1987 novel by Haruki Murakami about two lovers struggling to deal with their past in 1960s Tokyo. Directed by Tran Anh Hung and starring Rinko Kikuchi. [15] [Reviews] [Trailer]

Life Goes On (SD Films): British-Asian drama about family struggles. Directed by Sangeeta Datta and starring Om Puri, Sharmila Tagore and Girish Karnad. [12A] [Reviews] [Trailer]

Living In Emergency (Arts Alliance): A documentary about humanitarian group Médecins Sans Frontières who provide emergency medical help to distressed countries. Directed by Mark Hopkins. [15] [Reviews] [Trailer]

> Get local cinema showtimes at Google Movies or FindAnyFilm
> UK DVD & Blu-ray releases for Monday 7th March 2011, including Life in a Day and Traffik

Cinema Reviews Thoughts

Fair Game

Although it barely made a dent at the US box office, the story of ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame makes for an impressive political drama.

Despite being one of the key world events of the last decade, the Iraq War has proved to be box office poison for films attempting to deal with it.

Films such as In the Valley of Elah (2007), Body of Lies (2008), Stop-Loss (2008) and Green Zone (2010) have all shunned by mainstream US audiences who presumably don’t want to dwell on the painful consequences of a politically divisive conflict.

So it proved with Fair Game, which explores how the Bush White House leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) in retaliation for an article her diplomat husband Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) had criticised the justification for war in 2003.

But despite the lack of interest from US audiences it is an expertly assembled piece of work and easily director Doug Liman’s best film in years.

After an opening which establishes Plame’s background as an undercover operative the drama begins when Wilson is asked to travel to Niger in order to ascertain whether they have sold uranium to Iraq.

After concluding that there’s no substance to the claim, he is enraged when the White House use his report as part of their justification for war, prompting him to write an angry counter-blast in the New York Times.

This then triggers a rebuttal by syndicated columnist Robert Novak which outs Plame and triggers not only the end of her career but a political scandal involving Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby (David Andrews) and undercover operatives endangered by the leak.

Some will have issues with the details of the script by Jez Butterworth and John Butterworth, which is largely based on the Wilson’s two memoirs.

But whatever the interpretations it weaves reporting, details and anecdotes to powerfully evoke the heady rush to war in 2003 when the Bush White House was keen to steamroller any dissent regarding the invasion.

It is also a powerful depiction of a marriage thrown into turmoil as many in the media establishment initially side with the White House having swallowed the justifications for war.

Watts is convincing as a working CIA agent, conveying her frustrations with agency politics and the consequences for her life and career.

Penn inhabits his role effectively, as one might expect, even if his performance does involve a fair bit of scenery chewing as he seeks to defend his wife and principles.

In small but significant supporting roles, Sam Shepard, Noah Emmerich, Michael Kelly and Bruce McGill are all good value as Washington insiders.

The real star though is Doug Liman and the film represents a new creative lease of life for him after making studio fare such as Mr and Mrs Smith (2005) and Jumper (2008).

Serving as his own cinematographer for the first time since Go (1999), the visuals have a compelling immediacy and the narrative moves at a decent pace despite cramming in a lot of material into the 105 minute running time.

The world of Washington circa 2003 is also effectively evoked by Jess Gonchor’s production design.

It may be some years before mainstream US culture is ready to digest the Iraq War – it took a decade before films like Platoon (1986) revisited the deep scars of Vietnam – but Fair Game is an honourable and well made reminder of the nature of the government who engineered the conflict.

Fair Game opens at UK cinemas on Friday 11th March

> Official site
> Reviews of Fair Game at Metacritic
> Find out more about the Plame Afair at Wikipedia