peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 08 28 SpyGame

Spy Game (2001)

/noise/movies | Link

A minor bit of Tony Scott completism and some curiosity about what Brad Pitt got up to immediately after Fight Club. Robert Redford leads and is supposed to show us that the brotherhood justifies hacking institutions (here the CIA and related organisations) provided your heart is in the right place. It sells the sort of American guile and invincibility that was eclipsed by 9/11 and venerated by American Sniper. I found it hard to get into.

The framing story employs the cliche of it being ace field agent Redford's last day at Langley in the tenuous present. He's called back to sort out a crisis in a Chinese prison that involves a Brad Pitt he first met as a sniper in the American/Việt Nam war. Pitt takes out a putatively bad Laotian (illegally, clandestinely) under extreme duress and then manhandles his spotter to safety. After these heroics we're served up a few more episodes of derring-do in many locations (chiefly Beirut, some Berlin) and a tepid love interest in the form of Englishwoman Catherine McCormack. The romance is poorly handled. Redford shows what fieldwork can do to the shiny bums who never left the office. The relationship he has with his secretary Marianne Jean-Baptiste squanders both actors.

Overall the plot made little sense to me; it's mostly set pieces like blowing up buildings. Scott's choppy cinematography is unsatisfactory as he regularly constructs fantastic frames that he rapidly pulls away from, too quickly for us to enjoy them. The China angle was garbage at the time and even more risible now; there was no chance of the USA flying Black Hawks over the coastline to rescue Pitt. But it does tell us that the movie was made before the global movie market sensibilities tamed all such geopolitical provocations.

Roger Ebert: two-and-a-half stars, all surface, no iceberg. A. O. Scott: a "sleek, expensive handsome gizmos of doubtful utility."