Picks and Pans Review: Spy Game
After his ill-fated onscreen pairing with Harrison Ford in the humdrum The Devil's Own (1997), Brad Pitt may have wondered whether this older man-young buck thing could work for him. He can relax. Pitt, 37, and Robert Redford, 65, have chemistry to spare in Spy Game, a solid suspense thriller about the shifting relationship between two CIA agents over the years.
Redford is Nathan Muir, a 30-year veteran of the CIA. It's 1991, the Cold War is over, and Muir is about to retire. On almost his last day at the agency in Langley, Va., he learns that Tom Bishop (Pitt), a protégé he recruited and trained, has been captured by the Chinese and is to be executed in 24 hours. Bishop was involved in a rogue operation—he was trying to free a prisoner from a Chinese jail—so the CIA bigwigs are ready to cut him loose. Muir has other plans, despite having warned Bishop many years ago, "If you ever go off the reservation, I will not come after you."
Given current events, one would think Spy Game, which includes a scene in which a car bomb blows up a building, might be offputting, but it works surprisingly well. This is no jingoistic, mindlessly pro-American drama. In flashbacks set in Vietnam, Berlin and Beirut from 1975 to 1985, the film makes it amply clear that the deadly tasks Muir and Bishop are called upon to perform are never pretty and require constant moral compromises. The script also exhibits a shrewd grasp of the seismic shifts in culture at the CIA during that period, when by-the-book politicos replaced the cowboys. Director Tony Scott (Enemy of the State) adeptly stages Spy Game's action scenes and the tête-à-têtes between Redford and Pitt, in which their relationship evolves from teacher and pupil to sometimes clashing colleagues. Redford has the more fully written role here. Leathery but still radiantly blond, he is at his cagey, charming best, while the less-weathered Pitt shines brightest when his character comes out from under Muir's shadow. (R)
Bottom Line: They've got Game
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