Many shameful stories from the Bush Administration era, which are fit for being presented cinematically, exist. Those stories only grow all the more powerful as a society and culture presses onward and does not confront the reality that it could all happen again.
The U.S. government could direct its intelligence agencies to find certain evidence to support a "necessary" war, individuals who work for agencies collecting intelligence could find it hard to go along with manufacturing consent for war, and they could find their identity instantly lost--stripped from them callously because the agenda of government is more important than the conscientious or professional objections of one or more individuals.
The film, directed by Doug Liman, tells the human story of what Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) and Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) faced when the U.S. government chose to leak Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent to the press. It shows the resiliency of a human being who was taught not to break finally mentally and physically breaking down because all that she knows is lost.
The opening of the film shows that Plame was sent around the world to places like India, Egypt and Jordan and to track down individuals and collect information. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that Plame is looking for people who can be connected to Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program.
Wilson, a diplomat with experience in Africa, is asked by the CIA to go to Niger and find out whether reports of yellow cake uranium being exported to Iraq are correct. Wilson arrives in Niger and checks up on the country's uranium mines to find that there is no shipment. As explained, even if done off the government's books, one could see many trucks leaving out of the mine and there is no activity like that happening at all.
The screenwriters, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, craft the film so that the audience is finding out how Cheney and others in the Bush Administration are leading the CIA on with the hopes of fabricating a case for an Iraqi invasion. In a chapter of the movie that fictionalizes a section of James Risen's book "State of War," Plame goes to Cleveland to have Dr. Zahraa (Liraz Charhi) go find her brother, who is a scientist in Iraq, and gain information on Hussein's weapons program for the CIA. Dr. Zahraa sneaks her way in to ask her brother questions without the Iraqi authorities knowing she is there only to hear her brother explain there is no program; it was abandoned in the mid-1990s.
Wilson's character does not necessarily seem like a hothead, but he is capable of being a firebrand on issues he has knowledge about from experience. A university speaking event depicted in the film shows Wilson declaring how much of a tyrant Hussein is. At this point, there is little tension between Wilson and the Bush Administration. One could imagine Wilson would have, at this point, wholeheartedly supported a war on Iraq. But, Wilson is sitting in an airport waiting for his plane to depart when he hears Bush lie about his report on uranium from Niger in his State of the Union address.