Tony Scott knows how to put on a good show, never calling too much attention to the American flags that hang from Nathan Muir’s (Robert Redford) walls. Spy Game (think Enemy of the State redux) showcases Scott’s signature panache for out-of-nowhere whoosh pans, excessive visual time stamps and brash location titles (you know, the ones accompanied by the sounds of a typewriter). Good ol’ rock n’ roll music introduces the film’s Vietnam sequences; it’s there that C.I.A. operative Muir meets hired-killer Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt). Years later, Muir is ready to leave his comfy government job and move down to the Bahamas when Bishop is charged for treason on a Chinese island. Marianne-Jean Baptiste’s Gladys is the dynamic secretary to Redford’s slickster C.I.A. agent. Two-stepping their way through C.I.A. files and secret phone calls, the couples makes Spy Game crackle with their quick-fire interoffice repartee. Character actor Stephen Dillane (doing his best James Woods impersonation) is one of many C.I.A. officials who try to keep mum about Bishop’s espionage troubles while attempting to milk Muir for information. Right after hyper-intelligent Chinese inexplicably spot Bishop’s spy game via bubble-gum popping, Muir expertly pulls the wool over the eyes of the film’s C.I.A. elders. No surprise there—he is the pro while Bishop is the underachieving upstart whose testosterone leads him astray. His relationship to his Chinese best bud is about as underdeveloped as Bishop and Elizabeth’s (Catherine McCormack) romance. Once he takes the C.I.A. by the horns, Spy Game becomes little more than a bitchy back and forth between a cocky operative and an organization too dense to save one of its citizens. David Hemmings, sans his Last Orders devil eyebrows, and Charlotte Rampling make notable appearances as Muir’s Hong Kong connection and a sexy German socialite, respectively. Terrorists slam into buildings in smashing fashion, all set to an over-the-top score that channels everything from Middle Eastern tribal sounds to Celtic chants (it’s so ridiculous you have to love it). There’s something to be said about Scott’s relative disinterest in the film’s politics and morality. Rather than step on any political toes, Scott creates an undeniably punchy product that seems to rest entirely on the relationship between the conservatism of old-school Hollywood and the aggressiveness of the new guard. Spy Game is suave action for the boys but, more importantly, a sweat chamber for moms and daughters who get to see baby boomer and Gen-X pin-ups rubbing sweaty shoulders against each other.
- Tony Scott
- David Arata, Michael Frost Beckner
- Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Larry Bryggman, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Zoltán Benkóczy, Ian Boo Khoo
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