|Brad Pitt||Tom Bishop|
|Robert Redford||Nathan Muir|
|Catherine McCormack||Elizabeth Hadley|
|Stephen Dillane||Charles Harker|
|Larry Bryggman||Troy Folger|
|Marianne Jean-Baptiste||Gladys Jennip|
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
In the Ops Room on a high floor of the CIA, where the agency?s deepest, nastiest skulduggery is plotted, men sit around a long table discussing the fate of one of their own operatives with chilly corporate detachment. They wear cold expressions and shiny suits; all except one. His craggy, experience-lined face, which sits incongruously beneath a still-youthful tousle of blond hair, is softened by a recognizable humanity. He does not wear a suit, but a tweed sports jacket and dark slacks, and there is a rumpled trench coat slung carelessly over the back of his chair. It does not take a scholar with an advanced degree in Where?s Waldo to spot the hero in this bunch. Besides, it?s Robert Redford.
He?s Nathan Muir, a career field agent, and this, would you believe it, is his last day on the job! You?d expect a leisurely day of sentiment and nostalgia, a few jokey cards and presents, some pats on the back from colleagues and choked-back tears from the secretarial staff. Not a bit of it. His day starts rudely with a wake-up call from a contact in Hong Kong, where Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt), a young operative recruited and run by Nathan, is in a Chinese prison awaiting summary execution for a failed attempt to bust his girlfriend out of the same prison. We witnessed said attempt during the opening credits, and saw it come apart like a bursting bubble (that?s a clue.)
Tony Scott ("Top Gun", "The Enemy Within") tells this moderately entertaining tale of cloak-and-dagger tradecraft ("Spies drink scotch, not less than 12 years old"), loyalty, and betrayal with his trademark sound and fury, zooming and cutting with the swooping dazzle and depth of a paper airplane. Screenwriters Michael Frost Beckner and David Arata have set the main action in 1991. Nathan, working desperately against a 24-hour clock whose running-out is time-coded repeatedly on the screen by Scott, leans back in his chair and recounts the history of his relationship with Tom in leisurely, anecdotal flashbacks ("I first met Tom Bishop in 1975 in Vietnam?.")
Nathan is working against his own agency, which has decided it will be less troublesome to let Tom die than to embarrass the Chinese and possibly disrupt the trade talks that are in progress. The head spooks are a bunch of cold-blooded fish, but one in particular, Charles Harker (Stephen Dillane), seems to have it in for Nathan. Why or for how long Nathan has been an object of suspicion is one of the many details with which this movie is not inclined to bother. Maybe it has to do with the tweed sports jacket.
The guiding irony of "Spy Game" is that Nathan, who spent years drilling Tom in the ruthlessness that an agent must live by, finds himself going against that mantra as he dodges around the CIA building outwitting his ruthless superiors and trying to pull Tom?s bacon out of the fire. "If you go off the reservation I will not come after you," he had warned the idealistic young Tom years earlier in Berlin; but it was a warning from the head, not from the noble heart that guides old Nathan when Tom does just that and Nathan comes after him anyway.
© Text 2002 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be