Director Tony Scott’s thriller Spy Game pairs up Robert Redford and Brad Pitt for a second time – Redford previously directed Pitt in A River Runs Through It. Redford plays Nathan Muir, a man who is a on the brink of retirement from the CIA. As he is cleaning out his office, Muir is told that fellow CIA Agent Tom Bishop (Pitt) has broken into a Chinese prison simply to rescue the woman he loves. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? It turns out that the CIA thinks that the Chinese are going to try to extra…t as much information from Bishop as possible (read information as secrets). Muir has to scramble and see if he can get Bishop out in less than 24 hours before Bishop is scheduled for execution.
Tony Scott, the director of Crimson Tide and Enemy at the State, is just as skillful here as he has been in his past efforts. While the ideas presented in Spy Game are nothing groundbreaking, Scott adds another level of credibility to the film with his interesting twist of direction. Released theatrically in 2001 following a number of box-office disasters (such as Pearl Harbor), Scott’s stylistic thriller was a welcome addition to the November frame. Both lead actors, Redford (who always seem to be on his ‘A’ game no matter what film he stars in) and Pitt (overly-publicized but a great actor despite the hatred some have for him), deliver fine performances.
The plot reminded me, loosely I might add, of Fox’s hit series 24 in that Muir has 24 hours to help Bishop escape from any type of danger. I wonder if the upcoming sixth season (if one has been following 24) will be something similar as Jack is in a similar situation. Like 24 many of the film’s action scenes were tense and filled with the necessary emotion (sometimes overly emotional) to make that connection with the characters’ in peril.
Spy Game is not the best example of a Tony Scott film, nor the best example of an excellent thriller, but the film still manages to provide a solid two hours of excitement and enjoyment. While I probably won’t remember the film in a few months, I will probably give it a spin again someday as the film has enough replay value to warrant another viewing – especially for fans of Scott, Redford and Pitt.
Spy Game has been given an terrific 1080p 2:35:1 widescreen transfer. The image quality is up there titles like WB’s Training Day and Universal’s Ray. Colors are spot on giving the characters a more realistic feel. Since this is a fairly recent film (released in 2001), the print the film has is pristine making it hard for one to find many faults in this transfer. Little things like windows and trees are a sight to be seen – giving this HD-DVD transfer its’ more than deserved ‘the look and sound of perfect’ tagline. Edge enhancement, sometimes a problem in film’s of this nature, are nowhere to be found. More and more as each title arrives in stores, I’m finding myself happier and happier with the result of HD-DVD. Bring on more!
With the recent 2.0 firmware upgrade from Toshiba, I was hoping that a film like Spy Game, due to its’ theme and nature, would have boasted a Dolby TrueHD audio track. Dolby TrueHD was nowhere to be seen; rather a decent Dolby Digital-Plus track was included. The audio mix was good – giving the necessary low bass in some of the quieter scenes while the audio revs up in some of the louder scenes. Dialogue is easy to understand, but it would have been nice to hear a more consistent involvement from the surround channels. The audio was somewhat front-focused – other then the occasional big action sequence which involved the surround channels – and including the little nuances in the surround soundstage could have improved this discs audio performance. While the audio track was not as impressive as I hoped (as I mentioned a Dolby TrueHD would have been great), the audio track was more than fine for the subject at hand.
- Clandestine Ops: This feature is very similar to the ‘Follow the White Rabbit’ feature from The Matrix DVD. Simply select this feature, wait a few minutes and a little icon will pop up on the screen. Click the icon and you’ll be treated to a one to two minute brief clip on a certain section of the film. While this was definitely a great feature, I was personally surprised that Universal did not spend the extra dough, especially considering this film was a success, implementing these little clips into the very cool ‘In-Movie Experience’ that a few HD-DVD’s have had.
- Script to Storyboard: This brief two minute feature sees director Tony Scott explain a bit of the transferring of the script to storyboard and how the process works.
- Audio Commentary with Director Tony Scott: If anyone enjoys Tony Scott films like I do, they you’ll be very happy with this commentary track. Scott is informative as he discusses the little tidbits of the film including how events like September 11th, 2001 have affected films he has done as well as Hollywood in itself. Worth a listen if you like Scott as a director and filmmaker.
- Audio Commentary with Producers Douglas Wick and Marc Abraham: The second of two commentary tracks was way more technical than I ever wanted. Both Wick and Abraham were somewhat interesting to listen to, but I found myself slightly dozing off a few times as their voices were very low and they both seemed highly uninterested in the project at hand (the commentary track not the film). Only worth a listen to if you found the film to be the best thing since sliced bread.
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes: Here we’re given nine different scenes including an alternate ending that was pretty interesting. While I don’t want to give anything away, for those of you that found the theatrical cut’s ending somewhat confusing, this ending may explain a bit more. Director Tony Scott offers commentary on each scene, which was great especially on the alternate ending.
- Requirements to be a CIA Operative: This was quite the funny feature as it explained how one can be a CIA Operative. Quite a bit of work is required here making the job, as it’s outlined here, overly complex to the average person.
- Trailer and the Rest: The features round up with the film’s theatrical trailer and a few promos for the film’s soundtrack.
So the question at hand is whether or not this release of Spy Game is worth your time and your money. Well, the answer is simple. If you enjoyed the film, the HD-DVD release boasts improved video and audio, but no new features. If you’re more of a A/V guy, I recommend this for an upgrade. However, if you’re more into the feature aspect of the film, give this one a rental just to the see the improved A/V.
Special Features List
- Clandestine Ops
- Script to Storyboard
- Audio Commentary with Director Tony Scott
- Audio Commentary with Producers Douglas Wick and Marc Abraham
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes
- Requirements to be a CIA Operative