64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2002
When I first saw this film in theatres, I thoroughly enjoyed it however was a bit dissapointed. I realized later that my discontent did not stem from the movie but the way it was marketed. In trailers, they portrayed the movie as a straight up action film in the tradition of "enemy of the state." This being said, the movie did not live up to THAT expectation.
When I realized this and watched the movie for the second time on DVD, I saw this film for what it really was...A superb chess match between Redfords character and the CIA bureacracy. Everything else is truly secondary. Though exciting and dramatic, the storys (portrayed as flashbacks in the film) that Redfords character shares with the CIA taskforce, is really a strategy he is using to "win the game...a game which you dont want to lose"
Again, these flashbacks are insightful and sometimes thrilling, but are not meant to be represented as elements for an action film. It is a thinking mans movie for someone who likes there intelligence films to be intelligent. Hence the title Spy Game. Remember, some games are not won by brute physical force but with brains and strategic thinking instead.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
When this movie came out in November 2001, my big brothers took me to see a movie that had Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. "Hmm," I thought, "I'm not sure about this, but it's a free ticket, so what the hell?" Believe me when I say that this movie is so much more complex, intense, and entertaining than it looks. The trailer gives the totally wrong impression of what SPY GAME is about. This is not --- I repeat 'NOT' --- an "action" movie. Instead, SPY GAME takes a thinking-person's knack for clever storytelling, and juices it up with the flashy and quick style seen in many of today's movies. Again, don't let the trailer allow you to judge this film.
Tony Scott's movies have always had that quick-cut, fast-paced, full-force style to them. His brother Ridley Scott is a much better filmmaker; why is that? Because Ridley (THELMA & LOUISE, BLACK HAWK DOWN, ALIEN) has better control of the action and knows when to tone things down. In SPY GAME, Tony Scott finally finds his niche in great filmmaking, where style is complimented by good characters and a terrific story.
Nathan Muir (wonderfully played by Robert Redford)is a CIA operative, who on January 1991, is on his last day before retirement. However, his protege Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt in one of his better roles) is captured in Su Chou Prison in China, while the U.S. and the Chinese are negotiating trade talks.
When Muir learns of Bishop's capture, he races against time to save him from execution. Unfortunately, some CIA investiagtors and bureaucrats aren't as eager because of the aforementioned trade talks. What's fascinating about this setup is that Muir is always one step ahead of the game than those who want to abandon the rogue agent. Instead of this being the "Muir/CIA Showdown" (which we do get some clever exchanges), there is actually a character study underneath it all. As Muir is surrounded in a conference surrounded by his adversaries, pretending to play ball with them, he gives them details about Bishop's past, training, and work ethic. The storytelling is slightly faulty, because there are a few moments where Muir seems to be talking to the audience instead of the characters. But this is where Tony Scott's energy saves these awkward moments, because Scott knew this much dialogue needs good camerawork & actors to keep us interested. Scott invested enough time in the characters as well as the audience's thirst for high-stakes thrills.
Robert Redford hasn't really changed his acting that much since BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, but that's because he's smart enough to know his limitations. He isn't a chameleon who creates characters; Redford just uses his natural gifts to embody the role with his own mannerisms.
Brad Pitt also doesn't do anything groundbreaking, but is also in the right frame of mind that Redford is. Pitt possesses the charm of a gifted agent but the brash ego of a rookie. The supporting cast is also simply acting the way we expect reliable character actors to perform --- they don't try to steal the show and trust the filmmakers. This approach allows Scott's filmmaking style to drive the thriller at its best pace.
Pitt and Redford have a chemistry that makes us believe that Muir actually takes pride in Bishop's skills, while needing to maintain discipline and control over his new job. Pitt's counter-reactions to Muir's mind-games give both men a texture not often seen in espionage flicks. SPY GAME involves the morality of the two men, rather than preach about more universal themes.
I hate flashback sequences, but these are impressive and never slow down; much credit belongs to Redford because his narrative voice keeps things going. The present-time Muir/CIA games are very much like a poker game. Without giving away too much, the tactics involve simple tools like pagers, ambiguous dialogue, and keen eyes. There's no violence, or anything that forces us to suspend disbelief. Some neat moments include Muir quickly glancing at key data, and somehow getting information with the vaguest of words. Another is the CIA digging up his office, when Muir has no reasonable excuse for getting out of the interrogation. This movie is never a bore, and is very exciting considering most of it centers around a conference room.
In addition to the strong acting & directing, one of my favorite aspects of this movie is Harry Gregson-Williams's music. His score includes some cool beats during the spy montages, and some powerful chords during those dramatic moments of betrayal and reflection. Of all of the music I've heard from him (he's most famous for Michael Bay pictures ARMAGEDDON and THE ROCK), I easily call this his best work.
I really dig this movie! It's not perfect, and maybe it does borrow some aspects that other thrillers (and maybe Bruckheimer pictures) have done before. But this is a top-notch film with a strong presentation that keeps it moving. Because SPY GAME is energetic and focused at the same time, it's an exceptional film that warrants a purhcase!
FINAL NOTE - The DVD features are all good. There are some behind-the-scenes features that are worth checking out, and the Deleted Scenes (w/ or w/out Commentary) are actually good. I usually don't like Deleted Scenes, because it's obvious why they shouldn't be there. But these actually quite good, and would've added another layer that would've enhanced the story. An excellent movie got a grade-A DVD treatment!
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2005
Director Tony Scott should take the main bow for SPY GAME, an intellectual spy flick and primarily a director's film. With locations shot in Beirut, Lebanon, Berlin, Budapest, Casablanca, England, Haifa, Hong Kong, and Prague, a certain color and realism is guaranteed. And, sure enough, the photography and direction are in capable hands as is the script, which seems flawless. You gals out there might note that BOTH Robert Redford and Brad Pitt star in this slick tale of the CIA spy game. (Yummy!) Some reviewers seem concerned about an emotional flatness between Pitt and Redford but, hey, these guys are trained killers or at least serious craftsmen in the field. You feel too much as a CIA agent, you forfeit your life, my friend. So let's get real, okay? And very real is SPY GAME. The plot is intricate and layered as a wedding cake. CIA veteran Nathan Muir (Redford) is retiring and on his last day at his CIA job (what a waste of talent!) and his impulsive younger protege Tom Bishop (Pitt) is being held in a Chinese prison about to be executed for a botched rogue operation. How Muir saves the day for Bishop from long distance, being watched and questioned by his superiors in Washington who would rather see Bishop be executed by the Chicoms, is the crux of the story. It is a kind of mind over matter thing, the cleverness of Muir's efforts in contrast with the physicality of Bisphop's failed operation. Scenes of Bierut street fighting, flashbacks to Vietnam, takes inside CIA offices, all are very well done. SPY GAME is a classy, entertaining spy flick with good production values. Again, hats off to the director.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2004
I am not a great action movie fan - but I will watch almost anything associated with Robert Redford, whose "Three Days of the Condor" and "All the President's Men" are among my all-time favorites; as is "A River Runs Through It," his first collaboration with Brad Pitt. So, I figured, with these two in co-starring roles I couldn't really go wrong with "Spy Game"; and I certainly wasn't disappointed.
Told from a 1991 perspective - two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the CIA changed from an agency run by operatives with field experience to one run by "suits" - "Spy Game" flashes back to the cold war, when American politics' overriding goal was to outmaneuver the Russian-controlled communist block; although Middle Eastern politics eventually did add more complexity. (Shot before, but released after September 11, 2001, as director Tony Scott and producers Douglas Wick and Marc Abraham note on the DVD's commentary tracks, the WTC attack had some effect on the editing process). The story begins with CIA operative Tom Bishop (Pitt)'s capture during an unauthorized rescue attempt in a Chinese prison, resulting in his former supervisor Nathan Muir (Redford)'s summons, on his last day in office, to a meeting of the agency's top brass, for an account of their operations between 1975 (their first meeting in Vietnam) and 1985 (their last operation in Beirut). However, already tipped off to Bishop's capture by an old confidant in the U.S. embassy in Hong Kong, as Muir gives his report his suspicion is quickly confirmed that his information won't be used to save Bishop but to construe a reason to let the Chinese execute him. So it is left to Muir, several thousand miles away, to come to his former protege's aid; and in so doing, break all his rules of survival: Put away some money to retire in a warm spot, never touch that money for anyone, never risk your life or career for an outsider, and if an agent goes "off the reservation" (engages in an unauthorized operation), don't go after him trying to pull him out.
Of course, most of this has been done before; in the aforementioned Redford movies, countless other celluloid tales of the past 50 years and the novels of writers who have built entire careers on this kind of material, from John le Carre to Tom Clancy and Frederick Forsyth. But "Spy Game" was directed by Tony Scott, who, like his brother Ridley, has already left his mark on the genre (see "Enemy of the State" and "Crimson Tide") and, with his arts and advertising background, understands that action movies are about visuals at least as much as about plot and character development: weak editing and camerawork will sink an action thriller as assuredly as weak acting. And Scott's direction is spot-on, in his choice of camera angles, movement and even coloring (providing every chapter with a unique color scheme), as well as his editing, so fast-paced that there are several details you only pick up on in your second or third viewing. Even in the largely static scenes in the CIA conference room, thanks to numerous small tricks, great dialogue and a cast of outstanding actors - including Stephen Dillane as Muir's intra-agency opponent Harker and Larry Bryggman as CIA vice-director Folger - Scott never loses the viewer's interest.
I do have a few issues with "Spy Game" - leaving aside that, as in most spy flicks, there are some sequences where I have to suspend just a bit too much of my disbelief (like the East Berlin sequences of the operation used to set up American mole Anne Cathcart [Charlotte Rampling] and parts of Muir's rescue operation for Bishop), I think it is a pity that a director/producer team otherwise so focused on authenticity didn't realize how many people would remember Robert Redford's looks in films like the above-mentioned ones, i.e. from the mid-1970s, coinciding with this movie's Vietnam and Berlin episodes; for although Redford has definitely gained in class and authority with his growing number of facial lines, which well behoove Tom Bishop's mentor, arguably there should have been at least some visible age difference between Muir's 1975 and 1991 looks. And just as an aside, from a native Berliner: Guys, much as I applaud your choice to substitute nightly Budapest streets for those of cold-war East Berlin, you shouldn't also have filmed the rooftop scene there, because neither the city's overall look nor its topography pans out to those who actually knew Berlin then. (Not to mention the "vopos"' obvious Hungarian accents and a few other details I won't go into here.)
But overall this movie is certainly a cut above the rest of its class, due to great directorial work as much as that of Redford, Pitt and Catherine McCormack as Elizabeth Hadley, the woman who finally comes between them in Beirut: Redford as the inscrutable, controlling master spy - whose past is, unlike in the original screenplay, kept suitably ambiguous -, Pitt as the young gun, aptly codenamed "Boy Scout," who is not above exploiting "assets" for an operation's sake but does fall in love with the wrong woman at last, and McCormack as the tough, no-frills activist whose feelings for Bishop ultimately endanger not only him but also herself. - Last but not least, Harry Gregson-Williams's soundtrack deserves special mention: With an excellent blend of classic rock tunes (Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" and Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" ... where are these on the soundtrack CD???) and a score alternating between middle eastern and Asian melodies, a boy soprano (Bishop & Hadley's love theme) and techno grooves, it is always in tune with the action and provides a perfect frame for the movie's voyage from Langley to Vietnam, Berlin, Beirut and China. This may not be one of film history's all-time greatest moments - but it is a well-crafted thriller and definitely worth watching if you're looking for some action.
Three Days of the Condor
Sneakers (Collector's Edition)
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Day of the Jackal
The Fist of God
Shibumi: A Novel
A River Runs Through It (Deluxe Edition)
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I recently viewed the new Robert Redford movie "Spy Game", and really enjoyed the experience. As someone who worked within the federal bureaucracy for decades, I can readily verify that those aspects depicting the inner workings of the Central Intelligence Agency are certainly accurate and on point in this new film with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. Pitt plays an agent who possibly has gone rogue, and who has been taken prisoner by the Chinese. Redford plays his former handler, now re-engaged to decipher Pitt's action on the day of his own retirement, who smells something foul in the skunk works at the last moment of his own incumbency, and starts playing double-dare internal spy games with other CIA officers within the facility who seem to have some hidden ulterior motive for wanting to throw Pitt's character to the wolves.
Of course, one does well to recognize Redford's masterful hand in all this activity, since he has a well-earned reputation for questioning the nature of our intelligence agencies, their inbred culture of gamesmanship, and the way they work. Like spy thriller author John LeCarre (The Constant Gardener), Redford seems most interested in exploring the darker side of the so-called invisible government and its corrosive effect on the character of the men who populate it, and in the first hour or so, the film builds the tension between someone who wants to do right thing by an agent in the field and an agency looking to protect its own political agendas. As a result, Redford starts going out onto that precarious limb he had long ago advised Pitt never to venture onto, and learns some things about himself in the process.
The truth is revealed in layers of deceit and games, and one has to keep his wits about him in understanding why Redford takes some of the actions he does and what the agency is doing in the meantime. Yet at the conclusion all is clear, and the standoff ends with Redford driving his older Porsche off into the sunset of his own career and a much different future than he had imagined just a day or so before. Pitt plays his own part quite well as an iconoclastic recruit who learns enough about himself and the spy-game to understand there has to be a better and more purposeful way to live. This for me is the real strength of the movie, and the understated message Redford wants us to get; Our intelligence agencies work in service to goals often so twisted and altered from their original purpose as to be preposterous monsters, yet such conduct is all too common within the framework of how they operate. This is a cautionary tale told with purpose; to convince us the game is out of control.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2002
I really liked this movie..I don't know if I can explain the reasons for it clearly but I think it was one of the better movies I have seen.And clearly one of the best among its kind.
This is the story of two CIA agents,one young and the other one old,one a rookie and the other an experienced professional,a theme becoming quite popular.Nathan Muir (Robert Redford),on his last day working at CIA,finds out that Tom Bishop (Bradd Pitt) is captured by the Chinese while attempting a rescue mission unapproved by the headquarters.Bishop was recruited and trained by Muir,but at one time,their relationship came to an end because of some disagreements.This and the development of Bishop and Muir's past is explained with some long Flashback scenes,which make up more than half of the movie.And on the non-flashback scenes,Muir is fighting with the CIA system,the Chinese and also the clock ticking,to save his old pupil.
The plot is quite interesting and the story is beautifully told with the help of flashbacks.The performances,especially Redford's,are top notch.I am not a big fan of Pitt but I must admit he plays his character pretty well.I also should mention Tony Scott,because I'm a big fan of his unique style.Scott's visual style makes the movie what it is,and people who have seen "Enemy of The State" will easily recognize the similarities.The part of the movie where Bishop is trained by Muir is the highlight of Tony Scott in my opinion.Other than that,although the ending can not be counted as a surprise,you still will watch Muir's battle with a lot of excitement.
The DVD's picture and sound quality are almost perfect.I especially recommend the Widescreen edition because that is the only way you can taste the movie's visual value.The extras are quite satisfactory,but my only complain is that you can not watch some behind the scenes features without watching the movie.I also want to mention that the DVD contains the movie's trailer,as opposed to the feature listing on the cover.I love trailers,a funny area of interest I know,and this movie's trailer is one of the best of all times.
It may not be the best spy movie of all time,but I think it ranks among the top 5.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2002
Spy Game, a true espoinage thriller with great action seqeunces and good acting a cleverly, written sophisticated plot.
Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, star and Director Tony Scott (Enemy of the State) directs amazingly.
Brad Pitt plays Tom Bishop, a CIA operative who is arrested for commiting espoinage, and the only man who can save his life is Nathan Muir played by Robert Redford. Brad Pitt is taken by the Chinese Government where he is tortured and must tell of his secrets or what he knows. He is planned to be executed on the day of Robert Redford's retirement, because he plans to retire from the CIA. Muir superiors search for an excuse t o publicly disavow the rogue spy and so Muir is forced to debrief them on his own history with the young agent. Meanwhile, under the table, Muir works the system he knows only too well to free his friend.
I must say for not being a big fan or liking Brad Pitt, his acting was fairly reasonable in this movie, it was actually a lot bettter than decent. Robert Redford's character was quite terrific, the film was simply terrific. Spy Game is rated R for Language, Some Violence and Brief Sexuality, which is hardly anything. Just some mild sexual innuendo. Acceptable for high-schoolers and maybe even some mature preteens. Spy Game a true thriller which works on its own terms, Tony Scott is a brilliant director his movies really make you think and contemplate. A film worth owning, espeically on DVD, I prefer the Widescreen version. It truly is better and creates a better effect, visually to be specific. The sound is shocking and amazing, especailly if you have DTS. The DVD is also loaded with hours of extra features, from Behind-the-Scenes,Commentaries,a trailer,
DVD-ROM features, CIA Operative files and much more. Own this DVD, because it truly is worth your money and time. Get Spy Game, available to own on VIdeo and DVD, April 9.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I've always loved this movie, but I thought the Blu-Ray picture quality was about average. The audio may be better than the DVD, or it might be my imagination. If you already have this on DVD, I'd say it's not worth buying the Blu-Ray unless you're a huge fan of the movie. But without any extra content or other special goodies, the Blu-Ray isn't significantly better than the DVD.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2005
I liked this movie more after watching it multiple times. It's not the kind of movie you necessarily enjoy watching over and over, but it is nice to watch after you've already unraveled the sometimes-confusing plot so that you can enjoy the show.
The movie follows two storylines, the first a flashback involving the relationship of CIA Field Manager Redford and his recruit-turned-protégé Pitt. The current storyline involves Redford's efforts to save Pitt from the depths of a Chinese prison while the rest of the CIA is working to bury him.
Redford's character is pretty cool, with the street-smarts of a Harry Bosch combined with a slick comfort in the presence of administrators that Bosch could never muster. He is basically trying to redeem himself for a lifetime of morally ambiguous CIA dealings by putting his career and even freedom on the line on Pitt's behalf.
The camera cuts are gritty and fast-paced, without being so MTV'ed out that they distract from the story. The story is simple and intriguing, with the most pleasure coming from Redford's little tricks that, on the one hand, are so old fashioned that they wouldn't seem out of place in a quaint gumshoe noir, but on the other hand are just clever enough to be believable in foiling the CIA.
The movie bogs down in some of the flashbacks in my opinion, and the cuts from present to past and back again get slightly confusing if you're not paying close attention.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
If you like spy movies, this is a good movie to consider. Although the movie was made in 2001, It takes you back to the 70's and to many troubled places around the world. One minute you're in Honk Kong, then in divided Germany, the next, you're in Beirut at the time of the Lebanese civil war where a big part of the movie took place. It reminds us of the Berlin Wall and It shows some of the Palestinian people horrible living condition in refugee camps in Lebanon. It also shows the CIA involvement in Mideast assasinations.
Robert Redford is the main player in the movie. He appeared much older to me than one of his older spy movie (and one of my favorite) from 1975 " Three Days of the Condor". He also proved that he is still a great actor.
The movie is very entertaining and it keeps you thinking and guessing as more and more information is revealed about "Bishop" (Brad Pitt) and the intention of the CIA to deal with "the problem or crisis at hand".
THE DVD: (HD DVD)
This HD DVD has a great transfer, and the picture quality is excellent! The audio is also great!
There are some extra feautures such as deleted scenes, however, none is in high definition or even in good standard DVD quality. I would only only rate the extras one star.
Overall, Great Movie, Great Quality HD DVD Transfer. Recommended