Spy Game is a 2001 American spy film directed by Tony Scott and starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. The film grossed $62 million in the United States and $143 million worldwide and received mostly positive reviews from film critics.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
|Story by||Michael Frost Beckner|
|Music by||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|Edited by||Christian Wagner|
|Box office||$143 million|
In 1991, the US and China are on the verge of a major trade agreement, with the President due to visit China to seal the deal. The CIA learns that its asset Tom Bishop has been arrested at a People's Liberation Army prison in Suzhou and will be executed in 24 hours, unless the US government claims him and bargains for his release. Bishop's actions, unsanctioned by the CIA, risk jeopardizing the agreement..
A group of CIA executives summon Nathan Muir, Bishop's mentor, who is on his last day before retirement. While purportedly interviewing Muir to learn his history with Bishop, the executives seek a pretext for not intervening on Bishop's imprisonment. Unknown to them, Muir was tipped off about Bishop's capture by a fellow CIA veteran in Hong Kong.
Muir leaks the story to CNN through an MI6 contact in Hong Kong, believing that public pressure would force American intervention. They are stalled briefly before a phone call to the FCC from CIA Deputy Director Charles Harker results in CNN retracting the story as a hoax.
Muir met Bishop in 1975, when Bishop was a Marine Scout Sniper during the Vietnam War. In 1976, Muir recruited Bishop as a CIA asset in Berlin, where Bishop was tasked with procuring assets in East Germany. Then he discusses Bishop's spy work in Beirut in 1985, during the War of the Camps, which was their last mission together. We see events unfold in detail via flashback scenes.
Bishop is troubled by Muir's conviction that civilian "assets" who endangered a mission should be sacrificed to preserve the "greater good." After Bishop attempts to countermand Muir during a mission to save the life of an asset, Muir makes clear that he will not tolerate dissent, and would not rescue Bishop if he was captured going "off the reservation".
During a mission in Lebanon, Bishop, posing as a photojournalist, meets relief worker Elizabeth Hadley. While using her to connect with an asset for the mission, they became romantically involved. Muir distrusts Hadley, and reveals to Bishop that she was exiled from the UK. Hadley later confesses to Bishop that she was involved in the bombing of a Chinese building in Britain, which was supposed to be empty but contained Chinese nationals. Bishop reveals to Hadley his true identity.
Muir elects again to sacrifice a civilian asset for the sake of their mission, and Bishop cuts professional ties with Muir. Muir, fearing that Hadley could be a threat to the Agency and potentially Bishop, makes a deal with the Chinese, exchanging Hadley in return for an arrested US diplomat. Chinese agents kidnap Hadley, and a Dear John letter is forged and left for Bishop.
In the present, Muir recognizes that Bishop went to China for Hadley. In a series of misdirections, he forges a directive signed by the CIA director to begin "Operation Dinner Out", a rescue mission spearheaded by a SEAL team that Bishop had developed as a "Plan B" for his own attempt at rescuing Hadley. Using $282,000 of his life savings and a misappropriated file on Chinese coastline satellite imagery, Muir enlists the help of his Hong Kong colleague in bribing a Chinese energy official to cut power to the prison for 30 minutes, during which time the SEAL rescue team will retrieve Bishop and Hadley.
Harker is suspicious that Muir is working against the CIA, but when he confronts Muir before the gathered executives, Muir "confesses" to unprofessionally using company resources to gather information about his intended retirement home, which he has distorted the evidence to support.
Bishop is rescued along with Hadley, and infers that Muir was responsible when he hears the pilot refer to Operation Dinner Out, which was also the code name for an operation Bishop used to get a birthday gift for Muir while they were in Lebanon. When the CIA officials are belatedly informed of the rescue, Muir has already left the building and is seen driving safely off into the countryside.
- Robert Redford as Nathan D. Muir
- Brad Pitt as Tom Bishop
- Catherine McCormack as Elizabeth Hadley
- Stephen Dillane as Charles Harker
- Larry Bryggman as Troy Folger
- Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Gladys Jennip
- Ken Leung as Li
- David Hemmings as Harry Duncan
- Michael Paul Chan as Vincent Vy Ngo
- Garrick Hagon as Cy Wilson, the CIA Director
- Todd Boyce as Robert Aiken
- Matthew Marsh as Dr. William Byars
- Andrew Grainger as Andrew Unger
- Shane Rimmer as the Estate Agent
- Ho Yi as the Prison Warden
- Benedict Wong as Tran
- Adrian Pang as Jiang
- Omid Djalili as Doumet
- Dale Dye as Commander Wiley, USN SEAL
- Demetri Goritsas as Billy Hyland
- Charlotte Rampling as Anne Cathcart
- Matthew Walker as Digger Gibson
- James Aubrey as Mitch Alford
- Colin Stinton as Henry Pollard
- Amidou as Dr. Ahmed
- Andrea Osvárt as a cousin of Muir in Berlin
The film was made in Morocco between November 5, 2000, to March 19, 2001, and was originally to be directed by Mike Van Diem. Pitt passed on playing the title role in The Bourne Identity for this project. It made its worldwide premiere at the Mann National Theatre on November 19, 2001.
The film was released by Universal Studios Home Video on DVD and VHS on April 9, 2002.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie an approval rating of 66% based on 133 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The outcome of the kinetic Spy Game is never in doubt, but it is fun watching Robert Redford and Brad Pitt work." Metacritic gave the film a score of 63 out of 100 based upon reviews by 29 critics. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half stars out of four and said, "It is not a bad movie, mind you; it's clever and shows great control of craft, but it doesn't care, and so it's hard for us to care about."
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2018)
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- Rivero, Enrique (February 20, 2002). "UPDATE: Spy Game DVD Features Clandestine OPS". hive4media.com. Archived from the original on March 5, 2002. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
- "Weekend Box Office: November 23-25, 2001". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
- "Spy Game (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- "Spy Game Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- Ebert, Roger (November 27, 2001). "Spy Game". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
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