johnlink ranks SPY GAME (2001)

I think Tony Scott might be the most underrated director of his generation. While his brother Ridley gets far more credit, Tony has been turning out great flicks like TRUE ROMANCE, MAN ON FIRE, and DOMINO for decades. Heck, even his pure entertainment fare like TOP GUN and BEVERLY HILLS COP II are solid. SPY GAME certainly is very good, even if it doesn’t get mentioned as a big movie in the careers of either Robert Redford or Brad Pitt.

I watched SPY GAME (2001) on 12.5.11. It was my third viewing of the film, and first in roughly six years.

This might be my favorite genre of film. Espionage and intrigue at a fast pace, with a leading man (Redford) trying to stay a step ahead of everyone else. The non-linear timeline of this script works very well. It begins with a failed rescue mission and Pitt’s CIA agent getting kidnapped by the Chinese. Redford, who had been Pitt’s handler, gets called into the office and gives his superiors a history of their relationship, which began in Vietnam. The story zips along, aided by the fact that Pitt will be executed in 24 hours. We intercut the present with past, and the result is effective.

The best scenes have Redford teaching Pitt the ways of an operative. Just great spy stuff. When the two clash it is memorable, with neither overplaying the moment. The quiet in this film accentuates the loud very well.

The script may be a bit too overwritten by the end. Everything which might be used later is, and very few of them are executed in a manner which feels real. Only the bits about Redford’s ‘wives’ feels truly of the film, and not imputed onto the story from the outside. Despite those flaws, the script itself is excellent. The bow on the end doesn’t ruin the film, it only serves to take you out of what is happening momentarily. Had the end been handled better, the below scores would all be getting close to 10.

I loved seeing Micahel Paul Chan (THE CLOSER’S Lt. Tao) in a small role as an analyst. He is a great character actor, and I hope he keeps turning up in things. He doesn’t have to do too much here, but it is good to see him. Ditto Larry Bryggman, who previously played Bruce Willis’ boss in DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE. He does solid work in SPY GAME as Redford’s boss.

But this is a movie which is based on watching two great actors from different generations working together. The Redford/Pitt stuff really is top notch, and I could watch these characters go all day long. It’s very easy to get caught up in the world of this movie and let it take you on a ride.





~ by johnlink00 on December 6, 2011.

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