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Starring: Brad Pitt, Robert Redford
Directed By: Tony Scott
Four stars (out of five)
By Chad Finkelstein
It must be cool to be a spy.
Gazette File Photo
You get to go on covert operations, sweet-talk your way into the lives of powerful diplomats and terrorists, try out crazy new weapons, always land the girl and get the crap beaten out of you if you're caught.
In Spy Game, Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) learns the hard way that cockiness, charm and recklessness can only get you so far in the high-stakes world of international espionage.
The movie begins as Bishop and two other spies conduct a covert mission to free an unidentified prisoner from a Chinese prison. Their exercise is not entirely authorized by the CIA (Bishop's official employer), so when he is captured, tortured and marked for execution, the spy organization is not completely sure how to handle the dilemma.
Enter Nathan Muir (Robert Redford), an amicable, private, old-school type of spy who happens to be on his last day of work before retirement. Muir has led an admirable career of espionage successes and, 20 years earlier, was Bishop's mentor in Vietnam.
The CIA hopes Muir will fill in some gaps and help them understand what Bishop was doing in China. Muir, an agent groomed to be skeptical, is immediately suspicious.
What does the CIA know that Muir does not? What does Muir know that the CIA does not? What does Bishop know that nobody else does?
To help answer these questions, Spy Game is told largely through flashbacks. These sequences are incredible to watch, as Redford's narration guides you through the sometimes extremely complicated mission objectives. Filmed in the same gritty style as Traffic, so you can always detect a time change, these scenes are the film's most interesting moments.
Spy Game is a solid action movie. It's a well-constructed political thriller that jumps back and forth through time, all the while connecting past to present. With so much information, you don't even realize the significance until the end.
This is a puzzle movie where the audience is meant to feel like the main character struggling with only minimal clues to crack the entire code and discover the truth.
There are also a lot of quick cuts and snapshots that guide the narrative, innovative devices like the doomsday clock that keeps popping up to emphasize the depleting time left before Bishop's scheduled execution.
The story gets difficult to follow at times as so many numbers, dates and names get tossed at you within two whirlwind minutes of revelation.
Like Muir's investigations, it's up to the audience to decide what pieces of information are relevant and which are false leads. Spy Game is a marathon story combining some of the best elements of action, detective and political movies.
It's a fun movie to try to piece together. The direction gives you just enough information to understand the next sequence of events and then leaves you hanging and craving another flashback to tie up loose ends.
Spy Game is a very involving movie, fused together by intense action, gritty spy secrets and two actors who take their roles with appropriate seriousness.
This is one Game you definitely want to play.