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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.


Spy Game (2001) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Retiring CIA field officer Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) is awakened by a call from his Hong Kong liaison telling him, “Boy Scout is in trouble.” Contract agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is going to be executed the following morning by the Chinese as a common criminal unless the CIA claims him and works out an exchange. Unfortu­nately, they can't afford to jeopardize the upcoming trade talks with China, so Boy Scout is to be sacrificed. To avoid any blame at a Congressional hearing, the CIA mucka­mucks discretely pick Nathan's brain hoping to find some dirt on Bishop to justify deserting him. They do not know Nathan is onto them even though he drops a hint:

Nathan Muir: “When I was a kid I used to spend summers on my uncle's farm. And he had this plow horse he used to work with every­day. He really loved that plow horse. One summer she came up lame. It could barely stand. The vet offered to put her down. You know what my uncle said?”

Charles Harker: “No, Muir, what did he say?”

Nathan Muir: “He said, ‘Why would I ask somebody else to kill a horse that belonged to me?’”

Since Bishop was Nathan's recruit, and he'd burned the woman Bishop got in trouble over, he feels responsible for resolving the situation, which for him entails leaking the story to the press, and if that fails, there's a plan B. As author John Gilstrap puts it in his story:

“So it's your plan to rescue the boy and the girl?” Dawn asked.

“It is,” Jonathan said.

“Oh, come on, Scorpion,” Boxers complained. “Just a little secret-keeping? You know, for old times sake?”

Boxers had always been the OpSec purist— (356–7).

The cleverness of “Spy Game” is in how Nathan maintains operational security under the noses of his superiors whom he keeps in the dark.


Nathan being the consummate spy is deft at reading people at a glance. However, even he has his limits. As it's written in, (Prov. 30:18-19) “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.”

It's hard to track “an eagle in the air” just as it was hard for Boy Scout to make a sniper shot when a helicopter started blocking his line of sight; his spotter wanted to scrub the mission. Unpredictable flying motion can throw one off.

It was hard for us the audience to track Bishop's winding rooftop sprint as he tries to follow the course of a doctor down below who is trying to make his deadly appointment. It's like trying to follow “the way of a serpent upon a rock.”

cop writing ticketDriving an asset to the Berlin Wall for exfiltration, Bishop pretended to be a sick drunk so the police tailing him lost interest, and then he threw his asset over­board on Nathan's order. The action mimicked a hapless mook suffering from sea­sickness. Before one gets his sea legs, he is thrown by the rolling motion of “a ship in the midst of the sea.”

All this disorientation is topped by “the way of a man with a maid.” Nathan misjudged the depth of Bishop's involvement with a female asset. As his superior put it, “It appears you under­estimated Bishop's feeling for her.”

Production Values

” (2001) was directed by Tony Scott. Its screenplay was written by Michael Frost Beckner. It stars Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, and Catherine McCormack. Pitt and Redford did well as expected. Catherine McCormack gave strong support as Pitt's love interest. Other­wise, the film left the secondary characters undeveloped.

MPAA rated “Spy Game” R for language, some violence and brief sexuality. It was filmed at exotic locations. Its strength is in its drama and tension rather than beautiful vistas as the spies' world is dirty. It uses very acrobatic editing in places. Its geo-political time­line is flawed, but who cares?

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

The movie gives one a feel for the life of a spy leaving little room for a personal life. A true boy scout who is “morally straight” by oath might have trouble adapting to it, and we feel for the kid. I found myself invested in both leads by the time it was over.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Special effects: Well done special effects. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Gilstrap, John. End Game. New York: Pinnacle Books, 2013. Print.