Ripped from the headlines, this is the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson story with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. We already knew the story of Joe Wilson exposing the Bush Administration’s false WMD pretext for the Iraq war, and the White House striking back by outing an American covert intelligence operative – Wilson’s wife, Plame. But this film adds two more dimensions to the story.
First, this screenplay is based on Plame’s book, and the first act chronicles Plame’s exploits as a CIA officer. She indeed ran undercover operations. The depiction of real life, contemporary spycraft is even more thrilling than a fictional spy movie.
Second, the story also explores the excruciating pressure on the Plame/Wilson marriage. Joe is an able and principled guy with a little too much testosterone. His short fuse leads him to act impulsively to pick a fight that has even more severe consequences for his wife. In principle, Joe is right, but Valerie’s career is ruined, her family’s safety is threatened and her social life is shattered; she is both scared and resentful. And at the moment that they are under the most unbearable stress, each of them wants to react by moving in an opposite direction. Will the relationship survive? This dimension – a study of an adult relationship – makes this film much more than a typical history.
It’s also on my list of Best Movies of 2010.