Directed by the same person who did Enemy of the State, it has some familiar looks and feel of the other movie, but stands out on its own. It is a fast-paced movie, which takes place in both the past and present, in the U.S. and abroad and chronicles the relationship between cynical Master Operative Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) and his idealistic pupil Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt). The film opens in 1991 where Bishop is captured conducting an unofficial rescue operation in a Chinese prison. The rest of the movie is centered on the Agency's effort to disconnect themselves from Bishop and his execution that will occur in 24 hours.
The CIA has the means and resources to get Bishop out of the situation, but chooses not to because it could imperil Sino-American trade talks. It seems the top dogs in the posh conference room are ready to write Bishop off, but his friend and one-time mentor, Nathan Muir doesn't want that to happen. However, it is Muir's last day with the Agency and he doesn't know if he will have the time or the assets to stay Bishop's execution or sway his colleagues to intervene. As if time weren't a factor, the new order of younger, more by-the-book types that are in charge aren't too enamored with him, and feel that he isn't being truthful about Bishop's history.
The way the story is told is different and interesting, mainly from Muir's point of view as flashbacks to the various times and places he and Bishop were together: the Vietnam war, where they meet, 1970's Berlin where they do some of their first work together, and mid-1980's Beirut where they part. The tale is told at a hurried pace, which is good, as it doesn't leave much room for boredom (the film is a little over 2 hours long and it fits in a lot of information) and keeps the tautness of a spy thriller.
What I really liked about Spy Game was the cast. The smooth, suave, and almost Bond-like Redford was a perfect fit for this role. Brad Pitt was did well holding his own next to Redford, lesser capable actors would have been eclipsed by such a legend. However, Pitt's role just seemed more of a plot mechanism for Redford. There was not enough character development for his character, and we don't know what motivates Muir to risk everything to save him. We get some idea at the end, but nothing conclusive about his character is really cultivated. Of course, there were some other things that came up short in the movie, such as the amount of information that the audience had to absorb. If you went to the bathroom or for popcorn, you may have missed something crucial. Also, you if you have a short attention span, this movie, at its 2-hour length, would have lost you. Although the locations were authentic, neither Redford nor Pitt aged over the course of the movie. They looked as young in 1991 as they did in Vietnam (perhaps a perk of working for CIA), so suspension of disbelief will be required to a small degree.
This was a good movie, and you'll like the ending. You may leave the theater wondering if the means justified the ends or how can the CIA upper brass be so cruel as to abandon one of their own. Or you may just leave the theater enjoying a good movie. I know I did.