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SPY GAME

SYNOPSIS:
One day in 1991, just 24 hours before retiring to the Bahamas, CIA agent Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) is drawn into a deadly game of espionage chess with his own agency as one of the enemies, when his protégé, Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is captured during a rogue operation in China. Driven by love, Bishop attempts to rescue a woman whose double dealing has made her dangerous goods to all sides. But Muir has a long history with Bishop, going back to Vietnam in 1975, to Beirut in 1985 and to the original recruitment of the young operative. The old school of spying is no longer in favour, but even the smartest new suits can learn from the likes of Nathan Muir. However, Muir has to confront Bishop and their perso
nal styles don’t match, despite everything. And Bishop’s life now depends on Muir – and no-one else.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There’s good reason why spies and spy theme movies were always so popular, and a lot of it is to do with the complexity of motivations for characters who otherwise would earn our rebuke. These men and women deal in deception and death, but in all good spy movies, the final battle is for freedom, democracy and human rights. Of course, they sail close to the wind in any argument about the end justifying the means, but we’re more concerned with natural justice here, not real life. Films have many functions, and one is to give us a playground, where, like the cowboys and Indians of our youth, we could play out games that approximate important issues without any real risk. We can play good v bad in a simplistic game – unlike the real spying game. And maybe we can even examine these issues. But Spy Game simply re-treads these movie tyres on the wheels of escapist, tension-driven entertainment. A cleverly complex script gives us enough to think about so we know we are in spy territory, without quite overdoing it so we disengage. Redford is as commanding as Pitt is endearing, Stephen Dillane is spiky as the CIA’s ice pick to Redford’s silky ice cream, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste is great grounding as Redford’s loyal office sidekick. The locations help propel the action with bursts of interest. Given some stylish presentation touches – together with a flourish of editing technique – Spy Game is enthralling, even though it’s longer than it should be. But at least it’s accompanied by a terrific score. Watching the film is like going on a dangerous holiday in some of the world’s trouble spots (it covers a lot of ground, from Vietnam, Hong Kong and China to Berlin and Beirut, as well as Langley), in the company of spies with assassins and private armies, evil prisons and duty-driven bureaucrats as the key sights.

Review by Louise Keller:
They say spies drink scotch that is never less than twelve years old. Not hard to believe, when the spy is Robert Redford, and his protégé is Brad Pitt. Slick, enthralling and gripping entertainment, Spy Game is one of those superbly made thrillers that you just don't want to end. Well directed and scripted, the structure is cleverly constructed, allowing us not only a sense of now, but also a sense of how the characters got there. In effective flashbacks from Vietnam, Berlin and Beirut, we understand how spy and protégé came to meet and form a bond. A chess game filled with tactics, surprises and payoffs, Spy Game brings us the magic of Redford and Pitt together on the screen. Their relationship is credible and understated, and we understand the level on which they relate. They could be father and son. Needless to say, there's charisma plus from these iconic sex-symbols of two generations, and fans are in for a treat. This is one of Redford's best performances for years: we clearly get a sense of Muir's dedication to his job and how he has stayed clear of personal involvements. There's a cute running gag throughout that refers to (one of) Muir's wives, and the code-speak 'dinner out' impacts in the film's last scenes. Splendid locations in five countries bring great authenticity and Harry Gregson-Williams' score is wonderfully diverse. A thinking man's spy story, much of the film's joy comes from the undercurrent in Redford's character. The epitome of the perfect spy, he is well connected, smooth, smart with a rebellious streak: we delight at watching the ease in which he achieves the impossible in less than 24 hours. Big stunts and impressive action sequences are seamlessly integrated as part of the story line, but the real joy is Redford's performance. The humour is dry, the action is relentless. Don't miss Spy Game – it's one of the most enjoyable spy films I've seen for years.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

FEATURE

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

SPY GAME (M)
(US)

CAST: Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Larry Bryggman, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Matthew Marsh, Todd Boyce, Michael Paul Chan

DIRECTOR: Tony Scott

PRODUCER: Marc Abraham, Douglas Wick

SCRIPT: Michael Frost Beckner (screenplay and story), David Arata

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Daniel Mindel

EDITOR: Christian Wagner

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Norris Spencer

MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams

RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 24, 2002

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video

VIDEO RELEASE: July 3, 2002
Also available on DVD







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