Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Tagline: "It's not how you play the game. It's how the game plays you."
Length: 126 minutes
Robert Redford and Brad Pitt star in "Spy Game," a thriller about a frantic attempt by a veteran CIA officer to keep his former protégé from being executed. When I recently watched this movie at home on DVD, I found it to be very entertaining. Also, the DVD contains lots of extras, providing several hours of bonus materials.
In "Spy Game," Nathan Muir (Redford) is a veteran CIA officer at Agency Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, who is about to retire. On his last day at work, Muir learns that his former protégé Tom Bishop (Pitt) is being held in custody in China, where he is scheduled to be executed in 24 hours. It soon becomes clear to Muir that the Agency brass would rather let Bishop die than risk having anything get in the way of a trade agreement between the United States and China.
As Muir gradually discovers what's going on and wrestles with the problem of what to do about Bishop's predicament, the film intersperses long flashbacks that sketch the relationship between the two men over a period of years. The veteran and his former protégé are shown working together in Vietnam, Berlin, and finally Beirut, where Bishop had a romantic relationship with a British woman named Elizabeth Hadley (Catherine McCormack). It emerges that Bishop's current difficulties arose when he tried to spring Hadley from a Chinese prison and that her incarceration there was due to actions taken by Muir. With time running out, Muir must use everything he's learned over his long career as he tries to arrange a rescue for Bishop and Hadley.
For me, most of the pleasure in seeing "Spy Game" came from watching Robert Redford's star turn. I liked Brad Pitt's performance as well, and director Tony Scott has put together some visually dazzling action sequences. But the film tries to do too many things in its two-hour-seven-minute running time, and the result is that none of the characters are sufficiently developed for the movie to achieve much emotional impact. The romance between Pitt's character and Catherine McCormack's character is woefully underdeveloped, and I think some love scenes would have helped to make their relationship come alive. Also, I wish the film had done a better job of portraying Redford's character's inner conflict between choosing between an individual he cares about and the greater good of American society as a whole. But in spite of its weaknesses, I found "Spy Game" to be literate and entertaining, and I do recommend it.
There are hours of special features on the DVD, and perhaps the best of these is called Clandestine Ops. When this option is activated, you watch the movie and periodically an icon consisting of a file folder labeled "CLASSIFIED" will be displayed on the screen. You can then press the Enter or Select button on the DVD remote to cause a brief segment containing scene-specific information-for example, the director talking about location shooting or a thumbnail bio of a minor character appears-to be shown before you are returned to the movie.
Another worthwhile feature on the DVD consists of five deleted scenes and four alternate versions of existing scenes, all with commentary by director Tony Scott. The DVD also has a three-minute featurette titled Script-to-Storyboard Process where Scott shows and discusses sketches he draws of scenes before shooting them. There are also two full-length audio commentary tracks, one by Scott and the other by producers Marc Abraham and Douglas Wick. The commentary by Scott is pretty good, though there's quite a bit of redundancy with other special features. I don't recommend the producers' commentary unless you're really hard-core.
Selected Special Features on the DVD:
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