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HTF REVIEW: "Spy Game" (with screenshots)


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#1 of 27 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 20 2002 - 02:21 PM

Posted Image



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!



Posted Image



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.



Posted Image





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.



Posted Image



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.



Posted Image





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.



Posted ImagePosted Image





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.



Posted Image





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

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 27 OFFLINE   Mark McLeod

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Posted March 20 2002 - 02:52 PM

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
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#3 of 27 OFFLINE   Josh_Hill

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Posted March 20 2002 - 03:30 PM

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

#4 of 27 OFFLINE   josh4040

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Posted March 20 2002 - 03:36 PM

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 of 27 OFFLINE   Kirk Tsai

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Posted March 21 2002 - 02:33 AM

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

#6 of 27 OFFLINE   luke cav

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Posted March 21 2002 - 06:05 AM

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

#7 of 27 OFFLINE   Troy LaMont

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Posted March 22 2002 - 07:36 AM

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
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#8 of 27 OFFLINE   LDfan

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Posted March 22 2002 - 07:48 AM

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 of 27 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 22 2002 - 01:41 PM

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!

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#10 of 27 OFFLINE   Jay Mitchosky

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Posted March 25 2002 - 01:25 PM

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...




Quote:






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.


I have a gut feel that you're in the minority camp here. Personally when I hit Play I want the movie to start. At most a DTS/Dolby and/or THX trailer to start. In general I'm loathe to sit through any kind of promotion. Probably a residual effect of now having to watch commercials when I go to the theater. Posted Image Although as far as these go Universal's is quite nice.



I guess you're loving life with your newly calibrated widescreen set and all these advanced DVDs to watch!
"The computer had attained consciousness, only to reject it, claiming it was too unstable an operating system."

#11 of 27 OFFLINE   kevin_asai

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Posted March 25 2002 - 11:23 PM

Thanks for the review, Ron.



I am gonna buy this as soon as it is released.


#12 of 27 OFFLINE   Jenna

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Posted April 06 2002 - 11:13 PM


Quote:






there just isn't enough scenes of Brad Pitt or Robert Redford acting together




Despite this obvious flaw in the film, I will definitely purchase this DVD, having missed its theatrical release. The fact that the disc has DTS is icing on the cake.



Is it me, or could Brad Pitt be Redford's biological son? I mean, who would be better in a remake of "Jeremiah Johnson" than Brad Pitt??? Posted Image

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#13 of 27 OFFLINE   Scott Weinberg

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Posted April 07 2002 - 02:38 AM

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!" Posted Image

#14 of 27 OFFLINE   Michael Lee

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Posted April 07 2002 - 07:47 AM

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 of 27 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted April 07 2002 - 08:04 AM

Scott,

I've got three words for you. "We Were Soldiers"!Posted Image









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#16 of 27 OFFLINE   Tristan H

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Posted April 07 2002 - 01:06 PM

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 of 27 OFFLINE   Bob Drugan

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Posted April 07 2002 - 02:34 PM

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 of 27 OFFLINE   Bob Drugan

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Posted April 07 2002 - 02:39 PM

double post

#19 of 27 OFFLINE   Greg Z

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Posted April 07 2002 - 03:04 PM

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 of 27 OFFLINE   Jeff Gibbons

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Posted April 07 2002 - 03:14 PM

I got the subtitles too. Toshiba 5109. Any way around this? I have firmware v3.00




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