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Fair Game, director Doug Liman

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11 Responses to “Fair Game, director Doug Liman”

  1. anghus says:

    haven’t seen the film yet. though i gotta tell you, thematically speaking i can’t think of a less interesting story than Valerie Plame.

    If Liman makes something watchable out of this D.C. bore of a story, i’ll give him proper kudos.

    Isn’t it funny how no one cares about modern political films? iraq war films. inside the beltay political stories. America just doesn’t care. I find that fascinating.

  2. ribber says:

    Everyone will continue not to care about “modern political films” if movies as bad as “Fair Game” continue to be released. Liman is such a ridiculously boring director. There is not a hint of wit or intelligence in his films. And Naomi was so painfully dull in this movie. Sean Penn— well cast— but how much of Sean Penn being Sean Penn do we have to put up with?

  3. leahnz says:

    i can’t watch this yet, but i’m a bit baffled how anyone can find “not a hint of wit or intelligence” in liman’s terrific contribution to the (limited) pantheon of great ‘one crazy night in LA’ movies: GO

    “where’d you learn to drive, circle-ville”?

    i giggle just thinking about that, and the entire movie really, brilliant (except perhaps for the cliche vegas sequence, but it all greases the wheels of one night in ‘GO’ world so i can live with it). and thus began my everlasting crush on olyphant in earnest.

    (i also dig ‘swingers’, and ‘bourne identity’ is tight and controlled with some terrifically simple yet hard-out nifty action notes, more grounded in realism and naturalism than the increasingly overblown sequels, and a rather lovely love story to underpin the ‘who am i?’ angst to boot – damon and potente click nicely. my personal fave of the bournes’s tho i know the second one seems to be the consensus ‘best’. i like that one as well, just not quite as much as liman’s original)

    i haven’t seen ‘fair game’ but i seem to remember hearing somewhere liman is back to photographing his own flicks with this one, which is cool. i’m a sucker for directors who do that, so long as they have a flair for it. i think liman may have started out in the photography side of things but not certain about that.

  4. IOv3 says:

    Anghus, could you go into more detail about why you find the Plame story thematically boring? I am just curious and don’t want to throw anything back there without knowing the whole story.

  5. anghus says:

    Her identity as a CIA operative was exposed by the Bush administration in an act of political espionage.


    its like a bureaucratic Jason Bourne. The Government double crosses you, but instead of roof jumping, car chasing action, someone writes a scathing column in the Washington Post.


  6. ribber says:

    While i agree that “Go” is a really good movie, the wit and intelligence in it comes from the wonderful script by john august. swingers had a great script too. his movies show the mark of a mediocre mind when the material isn’t very good (i.e. “jumper” and “fair game”).

    he is a goofy and effervescent director, but his energy is inscrutable, and that comes through in how ephemeral the energy in his films is when it’s not just completely saturating the entire picture.

  7. LexG says:

    Liman rules, I kinda liked FAIR GAME (see my YT video review for in-depth coverage!), but his particular pulp pop energy is mostly missing in FG. I guess it wouldn’t be appropriate to approach it with his usual light, kicky, kitchen-sink (literally; THE LIMAN KITCHEN is second only to WES CRAVEN’s as the most familiar bit of auteurial homebound production design) approach. But with the globe-hopping and attempt at you-are-there procedural elements, I kept thinking how Mereilles, Stone, Soderbergh or Mann might’ve kicked it up a notch.

    It’s a noble movie, but the (superior) first hour feels like a collection of random scenes that never build with the one-two-three logistical ferocity of a Mann or Ridley Scott; Just random snippets of Watts’s overseas travails that don’t entirely come together (key characters appear and disappear) and feel a little scattershot and scrappy, mixed with domestic scenes and Plame’s officebound conflicts.

    But once she’s outed, it starts to feel like Liman just followed Sean Penn around– not Penn-as-Joe Wilson, but literally SEAN PENN– to whatever campus or lecture hall or hearing he happened to be appearing at YELLING about the previous administration, and just let him rant and rant. As effective as Penn is in the domestic scenes, once he’s UNLEASHED into SPEECH CITY, you can see it in his face he couldn’t be MORE pleased to be delivering these tirades, but as MOVIE too many of the threads start to unravel.

    That said, the one scene in the movie that REALLY pops and has the Liman energy belongs to David Andrews, playing Scooter Libby as he toys with some workaday agency office guys. THAT is a great scene, and I wish the movie had more edgy, unpredictable moments like that.

    And I addressed this before, and I agree that I’m with leahnz 100% that it’s cool as hell when a director shoots their own stuff…

    But Liman’s sickly purple-and-dust sheen here is really bizarre, just kind of an eyesore of a visual style that I never warmed up to. It’s like a cross between Mereilles, Rob Zombie, and a grape jelly bean, with skin tones desaturated to the point of looking like pink dust.

  8. leahnz says:

    i’m certainly not going to try to convince you or anybody to admire liman’s directorial skills, that’s entirely your prerogative and i’m not bothered either way — but re: ‘go’, while a well-conceived screenplay as the skeleton on which to flesh out an actual movie during production is certainly helpful, i don’t believe the screenplay for ‘go’ is deserving of all the credit for that film’s wit and intelligence; a great deal depends on liman’s interpretaion, vision and execution of the material, his deft handling of performance from his cast, the wry humour, subtle handing of the more outrageous elements, his very clever pacing, infectious energy, well-woven/edited intersecting story-lines, and liman’s own rather skilled photography.

    cinema is littered with the carcasses of movies that started out with fine screenplays, only to be turned into mediocre, insipid films because of the director’s own interpretation and execution of the story. a well-written screenplay does not guarantee a good movie by any stretch.

    i’m not sure what you mean by liman’s ‘goofy’ energy being inscrutable, i don’t get that, but as for liman’s other 5 feature flicks apart from ‘go’ (that i know of), i think he had a large part in making ‘swingers’ as charming and engaging and relatable and intimate as it is (again with his own photography); ‘bourne identity’ is a tight, intense, controlled example of action film-making with above average perfs; and re: jumper, liman wouldn’t be the first talented director to fail to rise above a mediocre screenplay — film-making is such a weird, complex, drawn-out, segmented, serendipitous process dependant on so many factors for the final result; for that movie i couldn’t help but wonder what it could have been if bell had actually played the lead instead of hayden (whom i don’t hate but he has serious limitations imho), how much more engaging the story might have been with a compelling lead, sometimes just lacklustre casting and a lack of chemistry can be the kiss of death and enough to drag down a movie that could have been at least passable into the gutter, and the choice for christensen in the lead may not have been entire liman’s. or not, maybe it’s just a stinker all round and liman screwed the pooch, i don’t know. but ALL good directors have low points to go along with the highs, hopefully ‘jumper’ is just one of liman’s dipsydoodles.

    (i just realised i haven’t ever seen mr & mr smith from start to finish, only snippets, so i can’t comment on that one i’d just be blowing smoke, and ‘fair game’ hasn’t come out here yet but i’ll definitely give it a go because liman is in my book smarter than the average bear)

  9. LexG says:


  10. christian says:

    Yeah, how boring that our government lied to us about WMD’s leading to a devastating war while the VP and his cronies smeared and outed a CIA agent among many others. No story there.

    Move along, America.

  11. anghus says:

    christian, in reality it’s an interesting story that warrants attention.

    as a narrative feature: no interest at all.

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I feel strongly connected to young cinephile culture. The thing about filmmaking—and cinephilia—is that you can’t keep hanging out with your own age group as you get older. They drop off, move somewhere. You can’t put together a crew of sixty-somethings. It’s the same for cinephilia: my original set of cinephile friends are watching DVDs at home or delving into 1958 episodes of ‘Gunsmoke,’ something like that. The people who are out there tend to be young, and I happen to be doing the same thing still, so it’s natural that I move in their circles.

In terms of the filmmaking, there was a gear shift: my first movies focused on people around my age, and I followed them for three films. Until The Unspeakable Act, I was using the same actors, not because of an affinity for people at a specific age, but because of my affinity for the actors. I like to work with actors a second time, especially if I don’t feel confident casting a new film. But The Unspeakable Act was a different script, and I had to cast all new people. Even for the older roles, I couldn’t get the people I’d worked with before. But when it was over, the same thing happened: I wanted to work with Tallie again in the worst way, and I started the process all over again.

I think Rohmer did something similar around the time of Perceval and Catherine de HeilbronnHe developed new groups of people that he liked to work with. These gear shifts are natural. Even if you want to follow certain actors to the end of their life (which I kind of do) the variety of ideas that you generate makes it necessary to change. And once you’ve made the change, you’ve got all these new people around.”
~ Dan Sallitt