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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 78:45)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 9 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary
  • 2 Featurette
  • Animated menus
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • DVD-ROM features
  • Storyboards
  • DTS trailer

Spy Game

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 121 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) is a retiring CIA agent - in fact today is his last day. Today will be longer than most days though. Woken by a contact in Hong Kong, Muir is told that his protege Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) has been captured during an attempt to free a prisoner from a high security Chinese prison. Upon arriving at work, Muir discovers that Bishop is to be executed in 24 hours, unless the CIA can do something. The one major problem is that the CIA does not agree with an attempted rescue, due to his arrest being from a rogue operation. Muir attends a meeting of CIA heads and has to recount everything he knows about Bishop so that they can determine the best plan of action, to do nothing and let him die or to accept he is one of theirs and negotiate a release. Muir will have to use all his know how to determine the best plan of action. This is possibly a true reflection of how the CIA truly operate, the interference of politics makes it all seem like a game really.

Through the aid of flashbacks, we are shown how Muir recruits Bishop when they meet in Vietnam to become a CIA operative. From there we are shown some of the operations they worked on together, from East Germany to Beirut.

"If it comes down to you or them, send flowers."

As is the norm for this genre, saying anything more may give away too much of the plot, so we shall move onto other elements.

Masterfully directed by Tony Scott (Enemy Of The State, The Last Boy Scout, Top Gun), Spy Game is a terrific achievement. Scott builds up the characters gradually, keeping the audience interested throughout. Robert Redford is superb as Muir, although his character does resemble the character he played in Sneakers. He is looking very aged these days but perhaps this is a good thing, he should finally be taken a little more seriously as an actor and not as a pretty boy. Pitt is also very good, showing great versatility and ability. Still wearing the tag of pretty boy himself, he has taken on more and more roles recently to demonstrate his obvious talent. The entire cast is well suited to their roles, particularly Catherine McCormack as Elizabeth Hadley, Bishop’s love interest, but it’s Redford and Pitt that run the show here.

The editing is very good and the cinematography really stands out. Accompanied well with a terrific music score to emphasise what is on screen, the drama and tension build nicely. Some scenes do seem a little excessive though. An example of this is when Muir and Bishop have a meeting on a rooftop. While this looks spectacular and is filmed from every angle imaginable, you have to think why? Assuming they meet up there for privacy then could they have not met somewhere equally as private that would have cost less to film? After recently watching Enemy Of The State, I have to say that nowhere is totally private though. Perhaps I am being a little pedantic but I just thought it was a touch excessive for its purpose.

Overall this film does work well. It is predominantly dialogue driven, but the action that does happen is very well presented. Tony Scott is an excellent director and this shines through well, as do the performances of the entire cast. It won't be for everyone, but fans of this genre should love it.

  Video
Contract

Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, the transfer is very good for this film. Picture is sharp throughout, only the occasional grain occurs but nothing too major. There are no signs of artefacts and I only noticed a couple of very minor cases of aliasing. Shadow detail is excellent and blacks are very deep. Colours are very true throughout and there is no sign of over-saturation or pixelisation. The layer change occurs at 78:45 between scenes and is not intrusive. The subtitles are in English for the hearing impaired and are true to the dialogue spoken and to the action on screen.

This really is well filmed and the transfer has captured that well. Some films try very hard to look like quality whereas with others it is obvious, this fits into that second category.

  Audio
Contract

The audio is very impressive on this release. The two audio tracks available are Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. The DD 5.1 is very nice indeed. Dialogue is clear for the most part and kept primarily on the centre speaker. The music score is very good and really builds the scenes well. Separation is used very well for directional effect and the music score. The subwoofer gets a solid workout and audio synch is never a problem.

The DTS track is even better. Sound is a lot fuller and separation is used to its full potential. The rumbling sound that occurs prior to any major scenes in the film is excellent. The subwoofer gets a very agressive workout here, really adding to the impact. It's definitely the better of the two tracks available, but the DD 5.1 is still very good in its own right.

One minor criticism with the audio is that the music can tend to take over scenes and is not always kept as a support. There were a few occasions where music would build to create the feel for the scene and then the actors would resume dialogue, but the music was still at maximum level making it hard to understand what the actors were saying. Only a minor factor, but one that stood out for me.

  Extras
Contract

Quite a few nice extras have been added for the retail release of this DVD to make it a very worthy purchase.

Clandestine Ops
Made up of thirteen mini films looking at shooting locations and six text style profiles of characters in the film, this is a nice addition. Each location shoot feature runs from anywhere between 48 seconds and 3:36 and all have to be selected individually. The much better option here would have been the ability to play all at once as it does get very frustrating. Some very informative footage is contained here anyway so it is a worthy addition.

Deleted Scenes
Containing five deleted scenes and four alternate versions of existing scenes, this is a very good extra. The option is also there to have commentary from the Director as you watch or to simply watch the scenes without intrusion. The total running time for these scenes is 19:37.

Script to Storyboard Process Featuring the Director
Director Tony Scott describes the process he follows when making a film and also shows some of the storyboards used in this film. Some of the storyboards are shown alongside the actual scene but sadly this feature only runs for 2:50.

Requirements For CIA Acceptance
This feature is a text style description of what is required to join the CIA. It is quite informative but more for humour value as most would not fit the bill.

Feature Commentary with Director Tony Scott
Tony Scott can be a little tiring to listen too, simply because of the way he talks but this is a very informative commentary. He discusses many things throughout, such as locations, the stars and the death of his mother during filming.

Feature Commentary with Producers Marc Abraham and Douglas Wick
Also a very informative commentary but the choice between the two would be the Tony Scott one. The enthusiasm from the producers is evident but the Director offers a greater insight into the whole film making procedure. Still well worth a listen and a good addition though.

Theatrical Trailer
Running for 2:23 and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this is a good promo for the film.

DVD Rom Featuring Total Axess
I have not had a chance to check this feature yet but the claim is that the viewer can access an exclusive hotlink to a secret location for some “behind the scenes” footage and interviews. Once I have checked this feature, this review will be updated.

  Overall  
Contract

Some may find this a little boring at times and I would certainly not recommend it for anyone that doesn’t like this genre. For those on the other hand who enjoy a film that can be a little intense and make you think, then this is well worth a look. This may not have worked as well if it had not enlisted Redford and Pitt in the leads and almost certainly would have failed if Scott had not directed, but being a big budget film the quality is evident and thankfully the aforementioned did make the film. There are a few issues that may offend some viewers, to do with current world events, but there is nothing worse than you would see on the nightly news. On quality alone this is well worth purchase, as far as story goes, that can only be a personal choice, but I think most will enjoy this. Running for over two hours, there is bound to be the occasional scene that seems to be there only to fill time but stick with it, it all becomes relevant as the film progresses. Definitely worth a look.


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      And I quote...
    "A gripping film with an outstanding cast, have a night off from the Monopoly or Scrabble and check out this game..."
    - Adrian Turvey
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai DV-P2000
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-29S55AT 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Akai AM-SS1500
    • Speakers:
          Akai
    • Centre Speaker:
          Akai
    • Surrounds:
          Akai
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
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