Picture: B Sound: B Extras: B Film: B
the best things about the Spy genre is that it could question military and
institutional power without going overboard because the main characters had to
carry out the operations. Either they
had their acts together and could deal intelligently with threats within and
without, but get on with it (The
Avengers, The James Bond Films) or question more deeply the institution
while things moved forward (The Ipcress
File, The Spy Who Came In From The
Cold), but as the 1980s set in, the genre lost its edge as the reactionary
Reagan period made a joke of such films.
Note that the silliness of the Roger Moore films had no negative effect
on this aspect of the genre.
Cold War, the genre had to find itself and after a surprisingly high number of
bad Cold War films were rendered obsolete by the fall of The Soviet Union, the
search was on for the next threats. A
singular one is convenient, and now that the post-9/11 era sort of gives us
one, isn’t it ironic it is hardly in any of these films?
post-Cold War era eventually saw the Spy genre rise again, with the Bonds
taking care of unfinished business in Goldeneye
(1995) and the Harrison Ford/Jack Ryan Phillip Noyce thriller Clear & Present Danger (1994) is a
reaction to the escapades of Reagan/Bush (starting with The Iran-Contra Affair,
also covered in the last Cold War Bond, 1989’s Licence To Kill). The first
Brian De Palma Mission: Impossible (1995)
to its credit questioned the operations of espionage and being a spy. The other enemy quickly became China for a
spot. Bond works with an agent in
détente in Tomorrow Never Dies
(1997), then turns on him via North Korea in the disastrous Die Another Day (2001) and in Tony
Scott’s Spy Game, Tom Bishop (Brad
Pitt) has been captured, sentenced to die and in effect abandoned by the C.I.A.
in a film that rightly questions the institution for at least some of the
film. After the false information that
let 9/11 happen and led to the Iraq mis-invasion, it is an aspect that holds up
Tom has hope in his boss and top C.I.A. spymaster Nathan D. Muir (Robert
Redford) who is being questioned about everything on his last day while
secretly maneuvering to do what he can to help get him free. The Michael Frost Beckner/David Arata
screenplay is smart, thought out, has its action moments and even some
wit. With 24 hours to save Bishop, Muir
will have to act fast, cash in favors and outwit bureaucrats who the film
rightly suggests are going to hurt the agency via arrogance, disregard for
others, more of a push to the Right that ever, appeasing politicians more
interested in covering up wrongs to keep people happy and the kind of “Peter
Principle” that gets people into high positions that they do not belong
in. How right they were!
get flashbacks to see how Muir and Bishop know each other, but the film was
criticized for either not criticizing the C.I.A. enough or causing trouble with
China by criticizing them when it might be better (read politically correct)
not to say anything. That we are now
dealing with Islamo-Fascists and borrowing tons of money from China to do so
makes this aspect of the film more awkward that ever. However, that is not to say this kind of
thing would not or has not happened between China and the U.S., but then
politics truly makes strange bedfellows.
Overall, Spy Game holds up in
ways even Scott could not have expected and is certainly stronger than Pitt’s
much touted Mr. & Mrs. Smith
(reviewed elsewhere on this site) which is just a silly film with pointless
fights and explosions. The result is a
film worth revisiting for interesting reasons, but that it is also one of
Scott’s better films. Catherine
McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Spy genre veteran Shame
Rimmer also star.
X 1 digital 1080p High Definition image is better than the previous standard
DVD, which was not bad for that format.
Between digital work, monochroming of many shots and a shading-down of
most of the outdoor shots (as if they were trying to avoid overexposure from
the sun, even though that is not actually the case); this is yet another
slick-looking Tony Scott production.
Fortunately, this has a good script and cinematographer Dan Mindel (who
previously shot Scott’s underrated Enemy
Of The State and J.J. Abrams solid Mission:
Impossible III) handles this film well and though some of the shots are in
a tired style, others are not as bad as the film moves along. Too bad the final images were not more
naturalistic, because this would be of more demonstration quality.
original standard DVD has regular Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, but sadly,
this HD-DVD only has Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and no DTS! That is a shame, because those DTS tracks
sounded good and the single Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 option just seems to miss
some details I know I heard before both on the DTS DVD and in the theater. Harry Gregson-Williams Score is not bad, but
snippy sound effects with an electronic mixing motif is used very often
throughout to a fault. The mix holds up
well enough, though I again think the lack of DTS is a problem.
are the same as on the regular DVD except a new interactive Clandestine
Ops feature exclusive to this format that allows you to access extras
as you watch the film. The repeated
extras include the theatrical trailer, alternate/deleted scenes & alternate
ending with optional Scott commentary, a piece on if you could qualify as a CIA
operative, producers audio commentary, Scott audio commentary and a
script-to-storyboard piece. Spy Game is a decent thriller worth
revisiting and one of Scott’s best films to date.
- Nicholas Sheffo