The Bishop Manoeuvre
In a People's Liberation Army prison in Su Chou, China rogue CIA operative Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is trying to rescue Englishwoman, Elizabeth Hadley (Catherine McCormack), when he is captured. With a sensitive trade deal about to go down between the governments of the U.S. and China it is bad timing and puts the CIA in a difficult position as if they admit that Tom is CIA it will jeopardize the trade deal while if they don't acknowledge him he will be executed in the next 24 hours. In order to justify letting him die they call in Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) a CIA executive on his last day before retirement and the man who many years earlier recruited Tom hoping he can give them some reason to justify letting him die. What the CIA brass do not know is that Nathan is already aware of Tom's situation and whilst he is filling them in on Tom's career is already got plans in motion to try and save his protege.
Sit down, strap in and get ready for a rollercoaster ride - a typical comment you could throw at many of the movies which had Tony Scott at the helm and one justified when it comes to "Spy Game". In fact "Spy Game" reminds me of a magician, it's distracting you with one hand whilst the other is up to no good and it is very entertaining for being so. But whilst there is depth within the movie especially when it comes to the character of Nathan Muir it is a movie which is very much about the visual representation, about sucking you in to the ticking clock and the spy tricks so that you do not draw breath long enough to ponder what is going on.
As such what we get in "Spy Game" is the story of two men and four time periods as Nathan Muir talks to his superiors about Tom Bishop from their meeting in Vietnam, a mission in Berlin during the 70s as well as terrorist activities in Beirut during the 80s, meanwhile we have the drama in the present as we have the clock ticking down before Tom is due to be executed. As I said it reminds me of the magicians act as each of these sections suck you in and take your focus away from what is happening in the present. And it works because each of the sections has enough excitement and drama going on that in other hands could have been extended and turned in to a series of movies.
But the interesting side to all this is when you look beyond all the excitement and focus on the character of Nathan Muir you actually find the movies depth. Here is a man who has spent his career using others for dangerous jobs and having no connection to them but he feels something for Tom. And so we have this situation where by saving Tom he can let go of any guilt he feels for those he used on his way up.
Whether or not the depth is your thing all the slight of hand still remains interesting from the way Nathan has someone call him so that he can watch what the CIA brass are up to in the mirrored window as he pretends to be on the phone to his wife to how he knows that his phone will be monitored and hustles the use of another phone. Plus we have Nathan training Tom which is a snappy montage of spy tricks, from seeing people in the reflection of a coffee pot to getting on to a strangers balcony in under 5 minutes. It will simply entertain the "Bourne" generation as it has that creativity and imagination which is always appealing.
What this all boils down to is that "Spy Game" is a lot of fun with its snappy pace, snappy style and plenty of spy creativity which keeps you interested in what is going on.