HTF REVIEW: "Spy Game" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Mar 20, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    [​IMG]

    Spy Game

    "This is a whole other game. And its
    serious and its dangerous -- and its not
    one you want to lose".

    I was surprised as to how much I enjoyed
    Spy Game, after all the lukewarm
    reviews it received from the critics as well
    as some of the less than enthusiastic comments
    I heard from personal friends. In fact,
    going into this movie with the notion that
    I might be disappointed made me enjoy this
    film even more!
    [​IMG]
    CIA operative Nathan Muir (Redford) is retiring
    after 30 years of honorable service to the
    organization. On his last day with the CIA
    Nathan learns that one of his contract agents,
    Tom Bishop (Pitt) has been arrested in a
    military prison in China on charges of espionage.
    The rest of the movie centers on the Agency's
    effort to disconnect themselves from Bishop and
    his execution that will occur in 24 hours.
    [​IMG]
    Through constant flashbacks, Muir recalls how
    he recruited and trained the young rookie, their
    turbulent times together as operatives, and the
    woman who threatened their friendship.
    Spy Game is actually an extremely
    engrossing, intelligent, well written, acted
    and directed spy thriller full of slick style
    and exciting espionage. Director Tony Scott
    (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide) uses
    a souped-up visual style (accented by the
    black-and-white freeze frames with legends
    indicating the time that marks the action as
    a device to count down the 24 hours in which
    the movie takes place). However, the film
    suffers from any lack of emotion that is shown
    from any of the characters, as well as the
    fact that there just isn't enough scenes of
    Brad Pitt or Robert Redford acting together.
    How is the transfer?
    I have been very impressed with Universal's
    latest batch of transfers. Starting with
    K-PAX, and now including SPY GAME,
    Universal is putting out demo-quality DVD
    product that has become a visual and sonic
    experience.
    [​IMG]
    The 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1) transfer
    is outstanding. There is no hint of grain nor
    video noise which is important in a film with
    many dark scenes. Colors are warm, looking very
    natural. Flesh tones remain consistently accurate.
    This is just a beautiful film to watch.
    Equally as impressive is the 5.1 DTS mix.
    Though there are very few action sequences,
    there is a constant sense of sound that envelops
    you throughout this film. Most of it comes in
    the form of Harry Gregson's musical score that
    plays strongly through the front soundstage and
    is supplemented by the rears. Even the quietest
    scenes within the CIA conference room is supplemented
    with surrounding sounds of idle chatter or papers
    being shuffled. Precise and accurate direction is
    the way I would best describe the sound mix. When the
    action sequences do heat up, every speaker comes
    alive with the roar of helicopters and bullets
    supplemented by an overly active LFE signal that
    had my SV Subwoofer shaking the floor.
    Special Features
    This disc is loaded.
    [​IMG]
    Pop in the disc and you are greeted with a
    computer simulated introduction that accesses
    the satellite database and logs you into a menu
    sequence that shows quick clips of the movie.
    Right off the bat, I have a complaint. Universal
    no longer includes the terrific promo spot in
    front of their features that includes Clooney
    lighting his lighter. These promo spots have
    always been the highlight of Universal DVD product,
    and I implore the studio to start putting them
    back in their releases.
    There are 2 feature commentaries on this DVD.
    The first is by Director Tony Scott. The second
    features Producers Marc Abraham and Douglas Wick.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Before you even watch the film for the first
    time, you should hop on over to the BONUS AREA
    and turn on Clandestine Ops. In a branching
    style originally introduced in Fox Special Editions,
    a CLASSIFIED folder appears on the lower right corner
    of the screen. Clicking on it takes you to a sequence
    that brings you behind-the-scenes of the particular
    point of the film you are watching. For instance,
    in chapter 9, as the film takes place in Vietnam,
    a CLASSIFIED sequence shows us the crew shooting
    Vietnam scenes in Morocco. Director Tony Scott talks
    us through the efforts of finding the perfect green
    oasis. In chapter 14, we are taken to a rooftop in
    Berlin where Pitt and Redford meet. Click on the
    CLASSIFIED icon and learn how Scott paid for a
    helicopter out of his own pocket in order to shoot
    scenes that would ultimately add more anxiety to
    the two lone characters talking to each other.
    This is a great feature that I wish studios would
    use more often.
    There are 5 Deleted Scenes that include...
    * A 25-second clip of Pitt riding into
    Beirut in a taxi. The streets are alive with
    the sounds of gunfire and exploding grenades.
    * A sequence where Nathan (Redford) meets
    Hadley (Cathleem McCormack) for a second time
    asking for her help, persuading her to leave
    Bishop (Pitt).
    * Nathan walks through the streets of Beirut
    and then a coffee shop looking for Bishop in
    this 1-minute clip.
    * Lots of street noise and no audible dialogue
    in this 40-second clip of Bishop talking to
    Hadley as she gets in her car.
    * A 1-minute clip of Nathan reflecting how
    he and Folger met in Karachi. Nathan keeps this
    information quiet at the CIA conference table.
    All the scenes are in finished form, and can
    be played with or without the Director's commentary.
    There are 4 Alternate versions of existing
    scenes that include...
    * a 40-second sequence of Bishop taking some
    hard line photography on the war-strewn streets
    of Beirut, supplemented by Nathan's narration.
    * An almost seemingly identical replay of the
    Beirut restaurant scene between Nathan, Bishop
    and Hadley. Though the scene plays out for about
    2 minutes, I don't see the difference between
    the original.
    * The building explosion is far more amplified
    with more casualties and street havoc shown in
    this alternate take of the original scene.
    * The film's finale is replayed with a lot
    more attention given to the "Dinner Out" operation.
    The film also ends with an extended sequence of
    Nathan's drive out to retirement and where he
    ultimately heads to.
    All the scenes are in finished form, and can
    be played with or without the Director's commentary.
    [​IMG]
    Tony Scott on Storyboarding is very
    unique in that this is the very first time I
    have seen storyboards drawn by the Director himself.
    Though the storyboards are very primitive, we see
    Scott's drawn ideas shown against the final cut
    of the film as window panes are placed above and
    below each other. Scott explains that his
    storyboards come after all the film locations
    are in place and after his cast has been picked.
    This helps him better articulate his drawings.
    In what seems to be a wasted extra, What it
    takes to be a CIA agent is a simple one-page
    blurb on how the CIA recruits its best and
    brightest individuals.
    In addition to the film's original theatrical
    trailer there are extras including...
    * DVD-ROM programming
    * A bio of the film's Cast and Filmmakers
    * Production Notes
    There is also a short promo for the film's
    soundtrack CD.
    A trailer for Universal's upcoming theatrical
    release of The Bourne Identity is also
    included. It looks pretty good!
    Final Thoughts
    There will ultimately be two camps of thought
    about SPY GAME. While I felt that it
    was any intelligently entertaining thriller,
    I am certain others will feel it to be mindless
    entertainment.
    In any case, Spy Game is DVD not to
    be missed. Rent if you are curious -- buy it
    afterwards.
    Release Date: April 9, 2002
     
  2. Mark McLeod

    Mark McLeod Second Unit

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    Thanks for the review Ron.

    I enjoyed this one theatrically and will likely pick up a copy on DVD.

    One thing though. You mention that the Universal Showcase before the movie is now gone. By this do you mean the 1-2 minute promo that plays when you select "Play Movie". If so I'm happy this is gone because when I go to watch the movie, I don't want to sit through 2 minutes of clips for other movies. Non forced trailers and Sound format trailers are fine but the clip thing was a bit overboard. However you and others may enjoy it and that's totally cool too.

    Once again, thanks for the review.

    Mark
     
  3. Josh_Hill

    Josh_Hill Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review. I think I'll definetely get this one.
     
  4. josh4040

    josh4040 Second Unit

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    Ron this one sounds great! Can't wait and can I just say, Dude you are so f'n lucky! Why can't I get the studios to send me all these great dvds? Oh yeah I forgot, I don't run an amazing forum with 1000's of loyal readers :b
     
  5. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

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    Sounds like a great disc Ron. I liked the movie a lot, so I'll definitly be thinking about it.
     
  6. luke cav

    luke cav Stunt Coordinator

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    Was going to pick this up anyway, but looks like a cool disc, thanks for the review.
     
  7. Troy LaMont

    Troy LaMont Supporting Actor

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    Ron,

    Thanks for the review, I missed this one in theaters and I'll be grabbing the DVD when it streets.

    Question: Why is it that you never mention the DD soundtrack of most of the DVDs you've reviewed recently? Just curious.

    Thanks.

    Troy
     
  8. LDfan

    LDfan Supporting Actor

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    This movie was a pleasant surprise at the theaters. I went into the movie thinking it would be a James Bond type flick and it isn't even close, it's way better. A great movie and one I'll definitely be purchasing.

    Jeff
     
  9. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Troy,

    I am a DTS fanatic. If DTS and DD are

    offered on the disc, I listen to the DTS

    track.

    I understand other reviewers might review

    BOTH tracks. Unfortunately, I just don't

    have the time.

    Reviewing DVDs for this forum is a one-man

    show, and I kind of like it that way. However,

    because of the amount of reviews I do every week,

    I have to limit what I can review. Therefor I

    don't generally review commentaries, CD-ROM

    content or Dolby Digital tracks when DTS already

    exists.

    I know I could do better....I just wish I could

    review DVDs full time like other sites can afford

    to.

    Thanks!
     
  10. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

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    Good review, Ron. I'm looking forward to this release as I'm a fan of both actors and did not have a chance to see it in the theater. I do, however, find this comment interesting...
     
  11. kevin_asai

    kevin_asai Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the review, Ron.
    I am gonna buy this as soon as it is released.
     
  12. Jenna

    Jenna Second Unit

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  13. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    See that, Ron? Just after you and I disagree on Ocean's 11, we agree on this solid and fairly underrated movie. I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed Spy Game. I have no idea why (perhaps it's my dislike for Robert Redford), but I expected this one to be a dud.
    Though I hate classifying movies this way, Spy Game is a rock-solid "guy's movie". I bet once this DVD is released, we'll see a lot of HTF members saying "Hey, guess what movie I missed in theaters but I really liked? Spy Game!" [​IMG]
     
  14. Michael Lee

    Michael Lee Supporting Actor

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    I was really looking forward to this release. I missed in in the theaters and did hear good things about it. It is a decent transfer with very nice sound. Hollywood actually put out a cerebral film!
     
  15. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Scott,
    I've got three words for you. "We Were Soldiers"![​IMG]
    Crawdaddy
     
  16. Tristan H

    Tristan H Auditioning

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    Just a warning for those of you with Toshiba players - this DVD has the same problem as Holy Grail in that subtitles appear on the screen without being selected and cannot be turned off very easily. I have this problem with my copy on the 2109 and have read on other forums about it affecting some of the other Toshiba models.
     
  17. Bob Drugan

    Bob Drugan Agent

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    I hate to say this but I rented Spy Game last nite and the subtitles were on thru out the movie as Tristan said above - I have a Toshiba dvd 2109. Too bad I really wanted to see this movie but the subtitles distracted me from really getting into the movie.

    Bob
     
  18. Bob Drugan

    Bob Drugan Agent

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    double post
     
  19. Greg Z

    Greg Z Stunt Coordinator

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    Yup, my 5109 had the same subtitle problem, a real shame because the movie looked interesting. But, I find the subtitle issue way too annoying to sit through....
     
  20. Jeff Gibbons

    Jeff Gibbons Agent

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    I got the subtitles too. Toshiba 5109.

    Any way around this? I have firmware v3.00
     

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