Spy Game

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Spy Game
Spy Game poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTony Scott
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byMichael Frost Beckner
Music byHarry Gregson-Williams
CinematographyDan Mindel
Edited byChristian Wagner
Distributed by
Release date
  • November 21, 2001 (2001-11-21)
Running time
126 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$115 million[2]
Box office$143 million

Spy Game is a 2001 American spy film directed by Tony Scott and starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. The film grossed $62 million in the United States and $143 million worldwide and received mostly positive reviews from film critics.


In 1991, the governments of the U.S. and China are on the verge of a major trade agreement, with the President due to visit China to seal the deal. The CIA learns that its asset Tom Bishop has been arrested at a People's Liberation Army prison in Suzhou and will be executed in 24 hours unless the U.S. government claims him and bargains for his release. But if the government claims Bishop as an agent, they risk jeopardizing the trade agreement and other America-China friendly relations; plus, exacerbating Bishop's situation is the fact that he was operating without the executives' knowledge.

The CIA's special operations executives summon Nathan Muir, the senior agent who recruited and mentored Bishop during a ten-year partnership in various zones of conflict, on his last day before retirement, to learn if he was aware of Bishop's unauthorized actions and purpose in China, hoping he will give them the pretext they need to justify letting Bishop be executed. The CIA executives are unaware that Muir had been tipped off about Bishop's capture prior to arriving at CIA headquarters by fellow CIA veteran in Hong Kong.

Muir first attempts to save Bishop by leaking the story to CNN through a contact in Hong Kong, believing that public pressure would force the CIA to rescue Bishop. The tactic only stalls them, however, and is stymied when a phone call to the FCC from CIA Deputy Director Charles Harker results in CNN retracting the story. Returning to the executives while he tries to figure out how to save Bishop, Muir describes how he recruited Bishop for an operation in 1975 when Bishop was a Marine Scout Sniper during the Vietnam War. Muir also discusses their 1976 tour of duty in Berlin, where Bishop was tasked with procuring assets in East Germany. Then he discusses Bishop's spy work in Beirut in 1985 during the War of the Camps, the latter being the last time the two saw each other. All of these events are presented in detail via flashback scenes.

It emerges in these examples that Bishop was all along conflicted about using civilians, called "assets", to facilitate any operation and the expectation that he sacrifice "assets" whenever saving them might compromise the "greater good" of the operation. During the mission in Lebanon, Bishop met Elisabetha Hadley, began developing romantic feelings for her. But he, and Muir, also learned that Hadley was involved in a bombing of the Chinese embassy in Britain and is wanted by the Chinese government Fearing that Bishop's feelings for Hadley and against harming "assets" might compromise his cover and the mission, Muir tips off the Chinese to Hadley's location in return for freeing an arrested U.S. diplomat. Chinese agents kidnap Hadley, and Bishop angrily cuts all ties to Muir when he discovers his involvement.

Muir thus concludes that rescuing Hadley was the object of Bishop's self-ascribed mission in China and understands that he has greatly underestimated Bishop's feelings for her. Running out of time, Muir secretly creates a forged directive from the CIA director to commence "Operation Dinner Out", a rescue mission to be spearheaded by a SEAL team, for which Bishop had laid the groundwork as a "Plan B" for his own attempt at rescuing Hadley. Using $282,000 of his life savings and a misappropriated file on Chinese coastline satellite imagery, Muir enlists the help of his Hong Kong colleague in bribing a Chinese energy official to cut power to the prison for 30 minutes, during which time the SEAL rescue team will retrieve Bishop, and Hadley.

Bishop, thus rescued 15 minutes before his scheduled execution, along with Hadley, recognizes that Muir was behind his rescue from the name of the operation - Operation Dinner Out - originally a reference to a birthday gift that Bishop gave Muir while they were in Lebanon. When the CIA officials are belatedly informed of the rescue, Muir has already left the building and is seen driving safely off into the countryside.



The film was to be directed by Mike Van Diem.[3] Pitt's casting meant he had to pass on playing the title role in The Bourne Identity.[4]



Spy Game opened at number three at the box office in its first weekend in the United States.[5] The film grossed $62,362,785 in the United States and $143,049,560 worldwide.[2]

Aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a score of 66% based on 133 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The outcome of the kinetic Spy Game is never in doubt, but it is fun watching Robert Redford and Brad Pitt work."[6] Metacritic gave the film a metascore of 63 out of 100 based upon reviews by 29 critics.[7] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half stars out of four and said, "It is not a bad movie, mind you; it's clever and shows great control of craft, but it doesn't care, and so it's hard for us to care about."[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Spy Game". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Spy Game (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 20, 2009.
  3. ^ Hasselhoff gets to just be himself in `Dieter': [All Edition] Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Milwaukee, Wis. [Milwaukee, Wis]21 May 2000: 035E.
  4. ^ DAMON IN LINE TO PLAY BOURNE: [Broward Metro Edition] Reuters. Sun Sentinel; Fort Lauderdale [Fort Lauderdale]30 June 2000: 17.
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office: November 23-25, 2001". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  6. ^ "Spy Game (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  7. ^ "Spy Game Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 27, 2001). "Spy Game". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 27, 2012.

External links[edit]