Click. Click. Click. The camera whirrs, spins and jump cuts from extreme long shot to extreme close up. The soundtrack thuds to an electronic drumset. The lighting is stark, pale and blue... Inside a minute, Tony Scott has spelled out exactly where Spy Game sits on his CV. Say hello to Enemy Of The State II.
All right, so it's not really a sequel to his exuberant comic book actioner. There's no Gene Hackman, no Will Smith, and the pacing is more sedate, but the similarities still outweigh the differences. Brad Pitt and Robert Redford shrug on neatly tailored naive youngster and cynical cold warrior roles, Scott breaks out the camera tricks, and the paranoia riff of "'trust no-one' blasts out.
The plot sees young CIA agent Tom Bishop (Pitt) nabbed by the Chinese. Back at CIA HQ, his old mentor Nathan Muir (Redford) - on his last day on the job - sets out to defy his bosses and get him out. As this unspools, Muir reminisces about his history with Bishop, flashing back through espionage highlights of the last 30 years - - assassinations in Vietnam, border crossings in Berlin, bombings in Beirut.
Whenever Muir's scheming in the "now" gets too much, Scott slips off to the "then" for a few explosions. If the litany of contacts sacrificed in the past starts to drag, he skips to the present to watch Redford sneakily teach his stuffed-shirt superiors a bit about running an old school undercover op.
Redford makes the movie. Pitt does his best with a thin role and the time-switching shenanigans go on a bit too long, but ol' Bob is fantastic. Shattering the myth that his acting days are a fading memory, he delivers a star turn crammed with gentle wit, the threat of violence and not a little thinly veiled self-loathing. Sundance is back.
Tony Scott reheats the cold war, serves it up with a side order of star names and watches everyone wolf it down with relish. Solid, intelligent, enjoyable stuff.