Reviewed by: Carole McDonnell
|Featuring:||Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Larry Bryggman|
|Producer:||Douglas Wick, Marc Abraham|
“Spy Game” is ostensibly about the CIA and Cold war espionage. Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) was mentor of Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) a sniper-turned CIA agent. Bishop has been captured while trying to free someone from a Chinese prison. In former times, the CIA would try to save him, but in these times when free trade is important—an international conference is coming up—the CIA can’t afford to save him. (It doesn’t help matters that Bishop seems to have been on some mission the CIA knows nothing about.) They must feed him to the lions and appease the Chinese. As Nathan says early on to his protégé, the spy game is all about trading people like they’re cars. On Bishop’s last day of work, the CIA calls him in to debrief him. They need something bad on Bishop—anything. This is where the real drama comes in. Because, while the story’s main plot is about espionage, the real story is about young upstarts who think they know more than retiring oldies. The movie makes us aware that the good ole’ US of A—symbol of truth, justice, and the American way—has been in quite a few wars: covert or otherwise. And rumors of war (propaganda) and media manipulation can either save Bishop or give him up.
There are agendas upon agendas. The CIA suits don’t want to tell Nathan more than is necessary. Nathan wants to save his friend. And sure the audience wants Bishop freed, he’s one of those sweetly perfect patriotic murdering machines one can only find in movies. He can murder and feel bad about it—but not too bad. No post-traumatic stress disorder or guilty conscience for this all-American and cuddly-cute zen-type operative. Nathan wants Bishop free. So of course the audience wants him freed. But what the audience really wants is for those young upstarts to get what’s coming to them. As the story progresses, we find ourselves truly getting impatient with the “suits” who are so self-impressed and so sure of themselves. They are new-fangled; he is obsolete, an old fogie who is to be tricked and ignored as soon as they have taken from him what he needs. The new corporate types think they hold the right cards. But we know all the time that Nathan has some kind of trump card waiting.
One of the characters in this movie is a kind of fanatical pacifist figure. Okay, it’s good to have a kind of character who symbolizes passionate commitment to peace. After all, in the movie, the CIA has lost its bearings and seems to be just as bad in some respects as the “bad” guys. They allow people to be killed, turn innocent people into murderers. So this pacifist figure affects the conscience of one of our heroes. But she is also another character who does what is expedient. Whatever is necessary to forward her humanitarian cause. it’s obvious the moviemakers want us to love her (there is this very annoying holy soundtrack that pops up every time she appears in a scene). But I can’t like her wholeheartedly. Compromise and expedience—even for goodness sake—is not a Christian virtue. Still, it’s nice to have a movie in which old age is revered. All those teen movies with know-it-all youths were getting kinda tiresome. So it’s nice to see a movie that tells us that there is wisdom in old age. The plot is nice and historical, reminding me of movies like “The Sting” and old cold war movies.
Some folks may not like to have a movie question the nobility of the CIA but let’s face it: the rules of nobility and fair play are for Christian people, not for a nation. God saves people and individuals, not nations. Overall, the acting is great. (Although the young upstarts sneer way too often and their scorn for Nathan is over-apparent.) But kudos to the producers for giving Nathan a faithful black secretary as a faithful helper. Speaking of rumors of war and media manipulation, little acting choices like that help chip away at the subtle racism found in other movies. But the best thing about the movie is this: once again, a movie proves what we all know: nothing is more stupid than a group of young corporate suits around a table, arrogantly assuming they know more than their elders and smugly thinking they hold all the cards.
The violence is heavy, but expected knowing the nature of the film. Profanity includes about 16 “f” words, about 14 uses of God’s name in vain, and other crude language. Sexual situations are minimal, though some cleavage and suggestive material is present.