Spy Game (15)

Review by Simon Bell

TOLD over the course of 24 hours of global intrigue with generous amounts of flashback - from Vietnam to the end of the Cold War - Tony Scott's Spy Game manages to take in as many of the late 20th Century's political flashpoints as exotic locations.

In 1991 we pick up veteran CIA officer Nathan Muir (a grizzled Robert Redford) in Washington DC a day away from his well-earned retirement to the Bahamas. Learning of the detention in a dank Chinese prison of his one-time protégé, now rogue agent, Tom "Boy Scout" Bishop (Brad Pitt as a Redford Junior-a-like), Muir embarks on a white knuckle race against the digi-clock to outwit The Agency, scramble for details and save the young rookie from execution.

Reuniting the screen giants for the first time since 1992, when Redford directed Pitt in A River Runs Through It, Spy Game had promised a chemistry not seen since the Older Blonde was teamed with Paul Newman in the George Roy Hill classics Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and The Sting. While not quite scaling those heights of cinematic majesty, Scott has fashioned a partnership that is rare.

Redford shows again what made his earlier spy-against-the-system thriller Three Days of the Condor so utterly watchable. He's also back to his casual best after years in the slush pile and gets the lion's share of the snappy one-liners to chew on.

Pitt, meanwhile, is admirable as the cocky sharp-shooter, unwilling to substitute the girl for the game. He shifts along Boy Scout's learning curve with controlled precision, keeping apace with the breakneck speed of the narrative.

From the pen of Michael Frost Beckner, the creator of US TV series The Agency, Spy Game has a knowing air and attention to detail you'd expect from such a big-budget adventure. And look out for comic relief in the Chinese officials distracted from a shifty business deal by an early episode of Baywatch.

The military scenes, with their mix and match retro hues, are by far the better here and are cut and pasted with de rigeur flashy editing.

Though not quite the intelligent film-maker his brother is, when it comes to the most ambitious and tautest action thrillers, Tony Scott seems to be your man.