Directed by Doug Liman
Review by Thomas W. Campbell
I did a Q and A with Doug Liman following the National Board of Review screening of
Fair Game on October 28, 2010. Liman is sharp and was open to discussing the political real-life story that his film took on and technical/creative aspects of production – specifically the cinematography and editing.
Link to original review at NBR website
In Fair Game, director Doug Liman and his script writers (Chez and John-Henry Butterworth) take on the architects of the war with Iraq and lay bare the facts of an American betrayal in their dramatic retelling of the experiences faced by CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) and her husband Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), the former United States ambassador to Niger. Fair Game is a classic “based on real events” story that works for all the right reasons. Hoping to find the missing ingredient to rationalize an invasion of Iraq following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush Administration turned to Ambassador Joe Wilson, who faced down Saddam Hussein in a successful effort to evacuate Americans and other foreigners during the first Gulf war. This time the mission was to find evidence of uranium sales by the Nigerian government to Iraq – to prove that Saddam Hussein was still actively building weapons of mass destruction even though his nuclear capability was dismantled after the Kuwait conflict. This would be the smoking gun to complete the swagger of those in the highest level of power in the Bush administration. Wilson’s trip to Niger, a region he had great first-hand familiarity with, was the great hope of those who were already planning the next American war. Unfortunately for the administration it was a dead end. Even more unfortunate, though, was what happened next.
The Tree of Life
Review by Thomas W. Campbell
Review at National Board of Review web site
Original review posted on May 27, 2011
The Tree of Life, the fifth film by director Terrence Malick, is a masterpiece of narrative and style. While this may not help in the marketplace against X-Men, Green Lanterns and drunk bachelors in Bangkok, it will resonate with anyone willing to be challenged–and rewarded–by an unconventional and completely original filmmaker at the top of his game.
Malick’s previous films–Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), and The New World (2005) have for the most part stood the test of time. Each film features actors who were–or were to become–major stars. And each reveals its narrative in less obviously dramatic and more thoughtful ways than other films of their genres. Badlands slows down the drive of its predecessor, Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, and allows us to feel the way Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek’s pre-punk rebels are part of the landscape that created them. Days of Heaven takes a doomed love triangle and places it into the seductive light (much of it shot in the magic hour just before sunset) and landscapes of the Midwest. The Thin Red Line is a richly character-based war drama that explores death and loss from an unexpectedly philosophical viewpoint. The New World examines the first meeting between Native Americans and Europeans in a way that makes the pristine forests as important as the characters. Malick has a talent to transcend what others might see as limitations of genres and to turn them into meditations on the essential questions of life–why are we here? What should we do about it? What is the true nature of the world itself?