Spy Game

Review Date:
Director: Tony Scott
Writer: Michael Frost Beckner, David Arata
Producers: Douglas Wick, Marc Abraham
Robert Redford as Nathan Muir
Brad Pitt as Tom Bishop
Catherine McCormack as Elizabeth Hadley
This film takes place over a period of 24 hours, during which an older spy (Redford) is asked to report all of his knowledge about a younger apprentice spy (Pitt), to his superiors. During their conversation, we flash back to the relationship between the two men, as they met, trained and worked together. The younger spy is apparently being held in a Chinese jail cell and will be executed the next day. Older spy is not happy about this circumstance and tries his best to figure shit out before it’s too late for his compadre.
If you dig on spy films, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy this movie. Sure, it’s a little slow and a little long in the tooth, but the story is solid, the behind-the-scenes of the whole “spy game” are intriguing, the acting is smooth the whole way, the development of the story pulls you in and the style utilized by director Tony Scott, makes it all that much more interesting. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to fans of the “action” genre though, because it’s really much more of a “mind” flick. What I mean by that is that most of the so-called “action” in the film takes place in the chess game of the mind played by all of the super-spies here. What one person says and another doesn’t, can sometimes make a big difference in any operation. Watching closely, telling stories, listening, utilizing contacts, keeping others secret, lying, playing it cool and willing to make sacrifices for the “greater good”. The lives lead by these men were quite a treat to get involved in, and not necessarily because I’d want to be in their shoes, but because they were in those shoes and seemed to know what they were doing so well.

But enough about the spy trade, the film also works on a human level. First off, there is the strong relationship constructed here between master and pupil, in Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. Both actors are believable and solid in their roles, and develop enough of a rapport between one another, to have us believe the finale of the picture as it goes down. But there was also a surprising “love” element in the movie (am I referring to Pitt and Redford again?). Yes, that’s right…Tony Scott actually underlines his cold-hearted secret agent caper with a romance of some great consequences. Once again, the denouement of the film puts much of that in perspective, and I for one, certainly appreciated that touch of emotion, in an already solid storyline (and it didn’t feel “gooey” or out of place, like in most thriller flicks). The film certainly did feel a lot longer than it was (it’s a little over two hours), but I was pretty “into it” the whole way through, and once again, director Scott can be thanked for that, with a bang-bang start to the festivities and lots of funky camera work the whole way through. By the way, most of the film takes place in flashbacks, so be prepared for that. I was initially a little “out of the flow”, but once absorbed, I found it to be a rather revealing way to work down to the truth. Good move.

On a personal note, I have to admit that I did look at this film a little differently since the events of 9/11. In the old days, I would watch films like this and just enjoy them for what they were, but nowadays, it seems as though you can’t help but think about the state of the world while watching a film about spies, terrorists and secret operations in far-away countries. Having said that, this movie isn’t a history lesson by any means and spends most of its time entertaining us and that’s certainly something that anyone could relate to at any time. So enjoy!

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

Spy Game



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