Thursday, December 27, 2012
Deftly scripted spy thriller that stays true to its name
There's a scene in this movie when his secretary asks "What's this all about?; "Money," says Nathan Muir. "Microchips. Toaster ovens." Muir (Robert Redford), a CIA agent about to retire, is bitterly certain that what he's saying is true - that the tricks being played by higher-ups in the CIA are motivated by American greed and international trade interests. But that turns out to be only part of what Spy Game (2001) is about. There's also friendship, love and loyalty.
The film, directed by the late Tony Scott (Top Gun), moves through two decades over two hours, but the breakneck pace never gives you a chance to get bored, aided by a great score by the English composer Harry Gregson-Williams.
In 1974, CIA agent Muir meets sharpshooter Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) in Vietnam. Brad Pitt lends credence to the role and impressed by the kid's guts and skills, Muir recruits him. The snippets of spy training we get to see as Muir instructs Bishop are the coolest part of the film, and Redford lends his usual easy authority to the role of mentor. It must've been a thrill for him to resuscitate his All the President's Men wardrobe, too.
Ten years later, the two men are on a mission together in Beirut. Somehow, amid the carnage and constant shelling, there's time for Bishop to fall in love. He meets Elizabeth Hadley (Catherine McCormack), a volunteer who, among other things, smuggles medical supplies to a refugee camp. In Muir's eyes, Bishop has broken a cardinal rule of spydom: He's allowed his emotions to cloud his judgment. Muir intervenes in a ghastly way, with horrifying consequences that don't become fully clear until 1991.
What could've been a run-of-the-mill spy thriller turns out to be a great movie. It's smart, well written and well paced and like its tag line crafty and intelligent . However, most of the credit for its success goes to Robert Redford rather than Brad Pitt. Sure, he's played the role of the old pro before; but Redford just keeps getting better at it and in the Spy Game, he shines.
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