"Spy Game" is one of those films that may have lost its bearing in the post-Sept. 11 world of international intrigue.
Completed long before the terrorist attacks and anthrax scares, it raises the once-troubling concerns about how far the CIA should go in achieving its goals.
Suddenly, to a movie audience churning with war fever and fear, the question doesn't seem as relevant as "Spy Game" suggests. Most would say now, "Whatever it takes if it saves civilian lives."
Fortunately, "Spy Game" offers an entertaining vehicle for a couple of box office stars, a saving grace for those who care about such things.
Robert Redford plays an aging CIA operative who must outfox his bosses to rescue his protege Brad Pitt from certain death in a Chinese prison.
The agency bigwigs are considering abandoning the agent to his fate, all in the name of improved trade relations with China, circa 1991.
Directed by Tony Scott, the film zips along in a sort of high-energy MTV style, which is visually just fine. But it does so at the expense of good character development that is the hallmark of the best films in the espionage genre.
For example, Redford's earlier effort in this regard, the classic "Three Days of the Condor," is a better film than "Spy Game," although both echo similar themes about ends and means. The comparison ends there, however.
"Spy Game" also is hampered by its reliance on numerous (albeit interesting) flashbacks, which tend to muddy the principal story line.
The technique is supposed to fill in the back-story for the main characters' history together, Vietnam in the 1960s, Berlin in the 1970s and Beirut in the 1980s. The audience will have to overlook the fact that both actors hardly age throughout the time frame, which will seem like a major flaw to some.
But all in all, "Spy Game" offers an interesting and entertaining diversion from the real war games played out on the evening news.
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