Retro Review: Spy Game

Robert Redford has always had a flair for spy films.

In his new film “Spy Game”, Redford plays Nathan Muir, a CIA operative who is on the brink of retirement and has to save his protégé, Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt), from deep within a Chinese prison. In 24 hours Bishop will be executed so Redford has to out maneuver and outwit several top CIA honchos so that he can save his protégé.

“Spy Game” is Redford’s third spy thriller but I think he has really brought some of those previous performances to his character in “Spy Game”.

Redford’s previous spy films include the 1975 classic “Three Days of the Condor” and 1992’s sleeper hit “Sneakers”. In each of those films, Redford has shown an evolution in the life of a CIA operative.

As Redford plays Nathan Muir in “Spy Game” you can see some of the moves and techniques he played in his previous spy films. It is almost like the filmmakers wanted Redford to play off those previous characters to enhance the reputation and experience of the Muir character.

Director Tony Scott really allows Redford to shine as Muir as he allows the audience to get inside his head. We really know what makes Muir tick as he uses his mind to weave through a lot of red tape at CIA headquarters. I liked how the film allows for a thinking man’s spy to be at the forefront of the mission.

I was a little fuzzy on what year the film actually took place since the flashbacks went as far back as the Vietnam War. When was the film set and why didn’t Brad Pitt age if the present was supposed to be today? We are talking almost thirty years here.

The biggest flaw in the film is that it feels extremely long. The pacing and lack of action isn’t for everyone. There is very little action and the majority of the film takes place in a boardroom as Muir verbally tells the CIA honchos whom Tom Bishop really is.

“Spy Game” also isn’t your typical Tony Scott film. With films like “Crimson Tide”, “Enemy of the State” and “The Fan”, Scott knows how to deliver suspense and tension but with “Spy Game” it seems to lose its steam about an hour in. I think the film needed another suspenseful subplot or plot twist to maintain the action and the intrigue.

The performances of Redford and Pitt are excellent just the film wears out its welcome.

3.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: December 9, 2001

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