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Spy Game

Starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Kimberly Paige
Screenplay by Michael Frost Beckner and David Arata
Based on the story by Michael Frost Beckner
Directed by Tony Scott

IN SHORT: For the guys. [Rated R for language, some violence and brief sexuality. 130 minutes]

Director Tony Scott needs to use bigger fonts on his screen subtitles 'cuz none of the femmes in our screening seemed to have caught the part where the numbers "1991" flashed up on the screen. Had they seen it, they wouldn't have complained about story flashbacks to the year 1975 and the lines on Redford's face. Granted there is only about half a story in Tony Scott's Spy Game, which goes heavy on the visual flash and even heavier on the soundtrack mix. The sound is just as much a part of the script as the dialog is, and if the visuals don't make a helluva lot of logical sense (and there are a couple of times that they don't) who cares? We've written of "chick flicks" before and have a long standing offer to anyone who can come up with a similarly demeaning name for movies that guys like; the ones that make our dates want to scream. Such is Spy Game -- nonstop complaints afterwards from the ladies in our audience. We, on the other hand, were happy as clams.

Somewhere in China, CIA agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) has turned his back on orders and broken into a Chinese prison to free a prisoner. Captured in the act, he will be dead in 24 hours. Seeking to determine the what and why of his behavior, a CIA panel summons the young man's trainer Nathan Muir (Robert Redford). Muir ain't stupid. He knows the panel is looking for a scapegoat on which to hang Bishop's acts. He knows who his friends are and, even though it's his last day on the job, he's going to call in every chit owed to him to try and save the agent that he trained.

We begin in Vietnam, 1975 where field agent Muir is teamed with Army shooter Bishop for the assassination of a Viet Cong general (Muir's regular shooter got blowed up real good, just before the assignment). Watched carefully through his years of military service, the decision is made to escalate Bishop's training at the time of the fall of Berlin. As a working pair, Muir and Bishop are well matched for skills but mis-matched for temperament. Muir is a true Company man. He's veteran of operations on almost every continent and can become invisible behind at least nine different dates of birth. Bishop has focus -- he doesn't like to do the smart thing and walk away when an assignment goes bad.

Their last mission as a team, during the fall of Beirut, introduced a new tangle to the working relationship. Bishop falls in love with Elizabeth Hadley (Catherine McCormack), who runs a refugee camp. Apparently in the spy game there is no place for relationships of the emotional kind (add four wives to the Muir short list, above). When emotion gets in the way of a mission, well, so much for partnerships. Love is love, after all, and love will out, even if the job demands total and complete devotion to the country that runs the CIA. <sigh>

So, can the old guy save the young guy without ever leaving his chair, half a world away? Will he honor an old partnership, even when his superiors tell him not to and a long awaited retirement to a nice, isolated island in the Caribbean is waiting?

Duh. Spy Game is so lackadaisically written that, it seemed to us that both Pitt and Redford were speaking in half sentences. Then again, half sentences are all that is necessary when a pair of actors has such strong chemistry on screen. Redford and Newman had it. This is the second go round for Redford and Pitt (the first was A River Runs Through It, back in 1992) and their scenes together, all flashbacks, crackle.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Spy Game, he would have paid . . .


dateflick for the guys.

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