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Spy Game (Tony Scott) 2001

Tony Scottís Spy Game is a lackluster effort that gives us Robert Redford as Nathan Muir, an undercover CIA operative who is (predictably) on his last day of duty. Of course, since this is a Hollywood action movie, he canít get away from the job without coming to terms with the time he sold out Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt), his apprentice. The film, like The Usual Suspects, mostly takes places in flashbacks as the main character is interrogated about the events that have led up to the present time. Like that film, the outcome of the interrogation feels like a cheap cop-out. Itís known that Muir is a spy, yet none of his interrogators seem particularly interested in guarding their secrets. The national intelligence system on display in this film seems scarily inept. When Muir walks into the office on the morning of his last day of work, a loud alarm sounds so that a guard might remind him that it is, in fact, his last day on the job. All of the spy devices that are used in the film seem to have flashing red lights and loud beeping noises emanating from them. Clearly, secrecy doesnít seem to be much of an issue here.

The film tries to be more down-to-earth than most spy movies, and attempts to paint the occupation as just a job, but the film feels far more false than such kitschy exercises as Mission: Impossible or the Bond films. The acting is adequate, but far from superior. The direction is downright awful. There is a constant alternating drone of either overwrought techno trash or wailing tribal tunes on the soundtrack that consistently seems out of place. The filmís editing attempts to be stylishly kinetic, but is so overdone that it ends up feeling like abuse. The filmís tone that is far too solemn to allow any sort of enjoyment to come out of the filmís events. Worst of all, that solemnity doesnít really lead to profundity. The plot turns around a decision that Muir makes to sell out a relatively innocent woman to further his countryís cause, and the crisis of conscience that arises out of that decision is raised, but relatively unexamined. Itís absolutely fascinating to suggest spies feel torn between their sense of duty to their country and the morality that kicks in when theyíre living a lie, but the film canít be bothered to get very introspective. Instead, it works toward a climax that is too forgiving for its own good. The treatment of these moral issues is indicative of the filmís overreaching feel. While there are interesting aspects in the film, too many of them are treated similarly or are sacrificed to style to make Spy Game worthwhile.

*1/2

11-25-01

Jeremy Heilman