A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
SPY GAME begins in 1991 with a failed rescue attempt at a Chinese prison. Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) is awakened on his last day working for the CIA by a phone call from Hong Kong. An agent has been captured. We learn through a series of flashbacks that the agent, Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) was recruited and trained by Muir. Their relationship is chronicled through the world's trouble spots from Viet Nam to Beirut, as they go from teacher/student to partners and then wind up at odds with each other. Bishop likes being one of the good guys. He likes to keep his promises. He is willing to bend rules, but only if he has to. Nathan is not sure he knows what the rules are anymore, beyond the one he tells Tom is unbreakable – save your money so that you can retire someplace warm and never spend any of it to protect an asset. The CIA has 24 hours before Bishop is executed. Muir spends much of that time in a taped and transcribed meeting with top officials who are more concerned about maintaining trade negotiations with China than with rescuing a spy who does not seem to have been on any authorized mission. The rest of the time, he uses everything he has accumulated in his career – his experiences, his relationships, his tricks of the trade, and even his money – to rescue Bishop.
Is it any good?
Spy Game is a smart thriller for grown-ups about spies who manipulate their "assets" (sources) with brains, not explosives. And it is about loyalty, politics, and whether the ends ever justify the means. This is not one of those movies where the spies wear elegant dinner jackets, drink martinis, use cool gadgets and have sex with gorgeous women in between huge explosions and shoot-outs. There is no hidden fortress, secret formula, or missing computer chip.
Redford and Pitt (who worked together on A River Runs Through It) are both marvelous, their different acting styles working well to help them portray the differences in their characters. Director Tony Scott (Top Gun and Crimson Tide) shows his usual expert touch in action stories about men who have to think quickly while they struggle with problems of loyalty and independence. The scenes in Beirut are particularly unsettling and tragic.
Talk to your kids about ...
For kids who love suspense
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.