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Spy Game (2001)

7.0
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 105,214 users   Metascore: 63/100
Reviews: 349 user | 136 critic | 29 from Metacritic.com

Retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir recalls his training of Tom Bishop while working against agency politics to free him from his Chinese captors.

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(story), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Spy Game (2001)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Robert Aiken
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Vincent Vy Ngo
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CIA Director Cy Wilson
Andrew Grainger ...
...
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Henry Pollard
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CIA Administrator
Tom Hodgkins ...
CIA Lobby Guard
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Storyline

CIA operative Nathan Muir (Redford) is on the brink of retirement when he finds out that his protege Tom Bishop (Pitt) has been arrested in China for espionage. No stranger to the machinations of the CIA's top echelon, Muir hones all his skills and irreverent manner in order to find a way to free Bishop. As he embarks on his mission to free Bishop, Muir recalls how he recruited and trained the young rookie, at that time a sergeant in Vietnam, their turbulent times together as operatives and the woman who threatened their friendship. Written by ck

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

It's not how you play the game. It's how the game plays you. See more »

Genres:

Action | Crime | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, some violence and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

| | |

Language:

| | | |

Release Date:

21 November 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Juego de espías  »

Box Office

Budget:

$92,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$170,187 (Brazil) (2 August 2002)

Gross:

$982,874 (Brazil) (9 August 2002)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TV)

Sound Mix:

| |

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When the film was previewed in the summer of 2001, Brad Pitt said that it dealt with blow back from unsuccessful CIA operations and suggested that it might mean America had been the world's leading power for too long. However, after the 9/11 attacks, Pitt was quoted as saying the movie indicated that CIA operatives were needed "now more than ever". See more »

Goofs

Innumerable breaches of security procedure (failing to sign for classified documents, writing on pads of paper, using a non-GSA approved safe, not wearing ID tag, etc.) See more »

Quotes

Charles Harker: If these walls could talk, huh. All this history, I envy you.
Nathan Muir: Then bag your job, you can be just like me.
Charles Harker: No, really. The debt this country owes you guys.
Nathan Muir: Chuck, are you gonna dance with your hand on my ass all night or are you gonna make your move?
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the opening credits, many of the credits are each preceded by a jumble of letters flickering on the screen. This may be a reference to the opening credit sequence of one of Robert Redford's earlier spy movies, Sneakers (1992). See more »

Connections

References La Femme Nikita (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Four Seasons Concerto No. 1 in E Spring
Written by Antonio Vivaldi
Performed by Nigel Kennedy / English Chamber Orchestra
Courtesy of EMI Records Ltd.
Under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Not just another Tony Scott action film--it's complex, thought-provoking. *** (out of four)

SPY GAME / (2001) *** (out of four)

Tony Scott is known for his big budget, fast-paced, action-packed extravaganzas. His latest film, "Spy Game" is no exception. He takes advantage of a massive budget, but loses sight of human comprehension. It's difficult to grasp his moral when it's awash in a superficial style where individual shots seldom last more than thirty seconds, and where dialogue never exceeds the length of a short paragraph. There's not much time to introduce characters, situations, or even locations-datelines appear on the screen to identify times and places.

Yet, it doesn't just feel as if we are in another movie by Tony Scott-everything feels very real. The danger is real. The characters are real. Many action films are about the action, special effects, and car chase sequences. "Spy Game" does contain those things, but they are in a focused, tight, evocative thriller. This movie is about the characters, not the action. It never forgets that.

"Spy Game" contains a complex structure. We begin in 1991. Veteran CIA officer Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) prepares for retirement. On his last day, he learns that his one-time protégé, Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt), has been captured in a foreign prison on a charge of espionage and will be executed in 24 hours. Fearing international crisis, the CIA decides it would be too risky to save him. But with a new generation in control of the agency, Nathan is no longer an insider. He must outsmart his own agency in order to save his old friend.

Most of the film plays out in flashbacks as the CIA digests valuable information from Muir. The movie spans from the Vietnam war to the end of the Cold War, with years ranging from 1965 to about 1991 (although the characters don't seem to age much). We learn Nathan chose Tom as a sharpshooter in Vietnam. He trained with Bishop. They formed a close bond, until something came between them-a woman.

The forty-year span in time poses no problem for "Spy Game." The engaging screenplay, by Michael Frost Beckner and David Arata, focuses on only the necessary characters. The soundtrack, by Harry Gregson-Williams, masterfully captures the various time periods, spicing the scenes with a slick sense of style and intrigue. The cinematography by Daniel Mindel makes the differences in location clear. Christian Wagner's editing gives the movie a frenzied, almost rushed emotion, that puts us right in the middle of the race against time.

Pitt and Redford retain their ground, despite a thick style. Redford creates a character out of nothing. We know little about him at the beginning, and we know little about him at the end. But he somehow gives his character a conscience, human values, and a lot of interest. We care about him because we do not like the black and white CIA operatives. Thus, we care about Pitt's character as well. Pitt gives his character an immature nature. He is in a stereotypical young hotshot role that might have fit him better a few years ago, but he still creates a grave sense of panic and fear.

With a structure like this, we expect subplots to evolve from the flashbacks. There is an intriguing terrorist story. A love story. Themes about betrayal, trust, position, friendship, commitment…but "Spy Game" never slows down and allows us to absorb these important details. By the end, we feel exhilarated, and we know we just watched a very smart, well-crafted film, but the most we can take from it is that it is a very smart, well-crafted film. I think, beneath all the style and surface, there is a little more to the movie than that.


65 of 86 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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