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Spy Game

Starring: Robert Redford, Brad Pitt
Director: Tony Scott
Genre: Thriller
Year: 2001
Rating: 4 / 5

In trying to come up with some catchy words or phrases to describe Spy Game, I invariably come back to one word - intelligent. Tony Scott's spy thriller is filled with tense moments and a pair of fine acting performances, but its greatest achievement is in its ability to respect its own audience. Some critics have referred to Spy Game as a mature thriller or an action film for adults, and both comments are true. Spy Game opens with a high-powered prison break and does not let up the entire way. Loud explosions and flashy gunfire are kept to a minimum, allowing stars Robert Redford and Brad Pitt to carry the film on their respective broad shoulders. What a novel concept - a star vehicle where the stars are actually up to the task!

Nathan Muir (Robert Redford), after thirty years working for the Central Intelligence Agency, is headed into the office for his last day. On the way, he receives a call from Hong Kong letting him know that Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt), his one-time protégé, has been captured in a botched escape attempt in China and will be executed within twenty-four hours. Deemed a fossil by his colleagues and seemingly put out to pasture, Muir decides he has one more mission in him - free Tom Bishop. Working almost entirely within the confines of his office and an Agency boardroom, Muir sets about trying to prove that Bishop is not an expendable asset. What unfolds is a series of flashbacks showing the evolution of a rather unique friendship.

In the spring of 1975, a chance event brings young sharpshooter Tom Bishop into contact with veteran operative Nathan Muir. After a successful mission to assassinate a Vietnamese officer, Muir begins recruiting Bishop to join the Agency. Languishing in Berlin for a time after the Vietnam War, Bishop finally buys in, though the job turns out to be much more than he expected. As we follow Bishop and Muir through Germany and later Beirut, we watch the creation of a top-notch agent, as well as a sometimes tense friendship founded upon mutual respect. That friendship will ultimately be tested when Bishop strays from protocol and begins taking his work home with him, setting up a defining choice for the young agent.

Director Tony Scott captures the audience from the outset with a suspenseful opening sequence, and the pace only accelerates from there. Scott should be credited with consistently maintaining audience interest throughout a film that stretches beyond two hours. Of course, it does not hurt that he has magnetic personalities like Robert Redford and Brad Pitt to help steer his ship. While Pitt is granted most of what passes for action sequences in this film, Redford carries the more difficult bureaucratic scenes back at the Agency. Watching him dance around potential landmines and lay out his own masterful plan is a true pleasure. Add in an ending that does not betray the audience's trust, and Spy Game becomes a smart thriller worth remembering.


Robert Redford..........Nathan Muir
Brad Pitt..........Tom Bishop
Catherine McCormack..........Elizabeth Hadley

Certification: Rated R for language and violence.
Running Time: 127 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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