Review: “Spy Game”

While the CIA is all the rage of the new TV season, its been a little while since we’ve had a good spy thriller with more of an emphasis on politics than action – so Tony Scott’s “Spy Game” makes it debut with good timing.

“Spy Game” proves an interesting and surprisingly upfront take by an American film in the current climate on some of the types of activities its intelligence agency has been involved in over the last few decades. No doubt some of the more damning material has been toned down or edited out due to 9-11, but what’s left is still pretty telling and realistic innocent people are killed left and right and the cold objectivity required for working in such an environment sits well with Redford who turns in his usual damn good performance that holds the whole film together. Pitt continues to do well with an ok role, though Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Redford’s secretary Gladys is probably the most likeable character of the lot.

The action is set mostly in a board meeting where Redford talks about his involvement with Pitt in three specific locations: Vietnam ’75 (where they meet and assassinated a Viet Cong leader), Berlin ’76 (where they were hunting a mole), and Beirut ’85 (where they were trying to assassinate a sheik). The board meeting scenes, which also include Redford doing some on the run investigating trying to find out information about an imprisoned Pitt set to be executed in a few hours, prove the film’s highlight.

They rely pretty much on Redford’s performance and the script which has fun and clever use of dialogue to create some elaborate office politics. The flashbacks all seem to be lit strangely (Vietnam in sepia, Germany in blue) but nevertheless carry out the job intended and show Pitt gradually understanding the system and the drawbacks about being a part of it. Still, the character is too poorly realised. Redford seems desperate to hang onto this guy even though he’d never make a good operative – he’s an emotional loose cannon. This unfortunately makes the ending that much harder to swallow.

The film has a very similar look and editing style to Scott’s “Enemy of the State” but the better performers and more interesting subject matter put it a good step above that even though in terms of believability and credibility its less successful. While the real life actions of the CIA would be much more interesting, “Spy Game” proves entertaining and forgettable.