Spy Game

  • Blond Locks O'Plenty
  • Latent Homosexuality
  • Tear-Stained Memories of Reagan-Era Scandals


Directed by Ridley's Brother

"Brad, this is ridiculous. If you want to find out who the real father is, watch Friends like everyone else!"

Redford's Got Brad's Tail in This Crafty Production

I don't care what people say about Tony Scott. I think the guy is great and I think his movies are fun. All of them, from Top Gun to True Romance to Enemy of the State, are the embodiment of the phrase, "I just want to be entertained when I watch a movie and I want to watch stuff blow up real good" They are entertaining, all right. But the stories also have been worked and manipulated by a true craftsman through artful camerawork, caffeine-jived editing ,and actors who are relieved that they aren't working with Dominick Sena or Simon West. Do they brim with latent homosexual imagery and subtext? Sure they do, but Quintin Tarantino has put this better than anyone else and there is no way that I'm going to top that. So all I'll do is sit back and throw the requisite film critique hyperbole at Scott's latest effort, Spy Game. The film does exactly what it's supposed to do, plus gives us some nice political commentary along the way. It goes nicely with all the blond hair thrown around by the film's two stars.

And those stars are the eternal Robert Redford and Filmsnobs homeboy Brad Pitt. Redford plays Muir, a CIA agent who's got ONE LAST DAY ON THE JOB. (Man, those always seem eventful) It turns out that his old protégé Tom Bishop (Pitt) has been detained in a Communist China prison during a mysterious operation and will be executed unless the US will admit that he's a secret agent But, this is post-Cold War 1991, and the government is more concerned about free trade than about their own people. (This was also the case in PRE-Cold War era, but I'll go along with the pussy-fed foreign policy argument made here for simplicity's sake.) The bosses are concerned enough to inquire Muir on the nuances of his relationship with Bishop: from teacher to mentor to... something more? (That's more implied than actual, but more on that later.) This overlaps with the film's tour of the last twenty five years in the high/low lights of the CIA: Vietnam, West Germany, Beirut, and China; all you favorite hits are here! Along the way, Scott wrings out a lot of tension and a fair amount of intrigue: What was Bishop doing in that prison? How will Muir get him out? And did Scott wear pink shorts and suck on an extra-long stogie during production?

There are a lot of things to like about Spy Game. I liked the nostalgia it evoked in contrasting the disorganization and cluttered bureaucracy of the 1991 CIA with the suave and cool moments of the flashbacks. While it's only a sliver of my memory, I still like the thought of an era where the enemy had a face and a permanent location and my faith was strong that the government would do anything and everything to keep that enemy in line through secrets and intelligence. That includes Muir and Bishop using everyone from political dissidents to hospital workers as means to justify the ends. There's more political posturing in these scenes than Scott was allowed with the Bruckheimer produced films like Crimson Tide and Enemy, which were about more socially charged subjects than presented here. The one piece of baggage Scott did bring along from the world of JB is the ability to make every little thing sexual in an underwhelming yet masculine way. For instance: Tom falls in love with a British social worker but Muir puts a stop to the relationship in the name of national security. Tom gets huffy and pouty and Muir gets all tense and dour. The very next shot shows the two staring pensively into the Beirut sunset while exchanging glares of jealously. Now I'll admit to a chemistry shared between Pitt and Redford, but is any of that really necessary? I think I have trouble with directors who use action epics with $100 million + budgets to flesh out their sexually scarred psyches. (See also David Fincher and Ridley Scott.) I wanted to blame all of that on the influence of JB in Top Gun and Days of Thunder, but I knew the audience here was in trouble when you have Redford utter the line to Pitt that he'll "make a beautiful corpse." Painful, and I'll even forgive the fact that it was lifted directly from the tagline for True Romance.

But who care? Who cares that Spy Game is another pitiful cry for help. It's also entertaining, makes some good points, and allows Scott to show off his bravado and wild style.He also gets to blow up stuff real good, just as one would expect. Don't mind me and my need to nick-pick everything to death. Throw out the Freudian film theory, take out the contraband Milk Duds, and enjoy Spy Game. If you want the Tony Scott rant, rent Sleep With Me and fast forward to the Tarantino cameo. It's pretty funny and the guy has had some first hand experience in the field. I just hope that when Tarantino shows up again, he's not wearing those pink shorts.

The Pitch:
2 Three Days of the Condor
1 True Romance
3 Spy Game
See It For:
Brad revealing the secrets and mysteries of Springfield(MO)-style Cashew Chicken.