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"Spy Game"

Directed by Tony Scott.
Written by Michael Frost Beckner and David Arata.
Starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  11/30/01 


Tony Scott may have muffed it on his previous work, "Enemy of the State", but he gets it right in his new film "Spy Game."

The director, best known for being the director of "Top Gun", has a wordy, intelligent script to work from and gets eye candy Brad Pitt and Robert Redford to work with on his effort.  It's the early 1990s, and retiring CIA officer Nathan Muir (Redford) has 24 hours to get his top protege, Tom Bishop (Pitt), out of a South China prison before Chinese government officials execute him for espionage.  Making the assignment more difficult is a CIA special committee led by a rival agent (Stephen Dillane) that wants to leave Bishop for dead for reasons that come out during the course of the film.  Almost all of Pitt's scenes take place in flashback, to show us how he became one of the top spies in the world and what got him into so much trouble with the Chinese.

Although it is low on action, this film really worked for me.  This is mostly due to the writing, and the strange camaraderie between Redford and Pitt.  There is a lot to follow in this film, and while it is not terribly hard to understand, you do have to stay alert to put it all together by the end.  Redford once again seems to be going through the motions with his character, but since his lines are so smart and oftentimes so funny, this is fine.  And, is his face ready-made to be my next leather jacket?  Forget Eastwood, forget Edward James Olmos...Redford may have taken over in the facial leather category.  Pitt is great again, and minimal support from other players is enough to keep the film moving along.

And, this is not an oft-visited destination in today's films, so going back ten years ago (and further, during Vietnam and Middle East sequences in the mid-70s and mid-80s) is a welcome change.  With the change comes the opportunity for making jokes about the old David Hasselhoff series "Baywatch", which gets a great laugh near the end of the film.  It is long even if it doesn't *feel* long, but for a matinee price, this one is great stuff.

Rating:  $8.25 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09