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The first time I sat down to watch SPY GAME ($30) on DVD, I wasn’t expecting to like the film all that much. However, the movie turned out to be a very cool political thriller, which I enjoyed immensely. The plot of SPY GAME, centers on a CIA operative named Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt), who is capture while trying to break someone out of a Chinese prison. The Chinese don’t take too kindly to Bishop’s actions, and plan on executing him within twenty-four hours. As coincidence would have it, Nathan Muir (Robert Redford), who was Bishop’s mentor, learns of his protégé’s plight on the very day of his retirement from agency. As you might have guessed, Muir’s final day at the CIA is spent wrangling with the agency’s directors, and then scrambling to find a way to save the young operative from execution, after learning that the agency’s upper echelon has no intention of rescuing Bishop.

While Bishop’s fate would seem to be the central focus of SPY GAME, much of the film’s running time is filled with flashback sequences showing how Muir guided Bishop’s career over a period of years and how a couple of key missions lead to the current situation. Redford and Pitt are quite good in their respective roles, especially Redford, as one of the agency’s master manipulators. Director Tony Scott’s snappy pacing and handling of the action sequences makes the film’s two hour and seven minute running time seem a lot shorter and leaves the audience wanting more. The solid supporting cast of SPY GAME includes Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Larry Bryggman, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Matthew Marsh, Todd Boyce, Michael Paul Chan, Garrick Hagon and Charlotte Rampling in a brief cameo.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made SPY GAME available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is generally quite good, but director Tony Scott’ artful styling of the cinematography and other visual tricks does make the picture seem a bit uneven. Much of the time, the image is quite shape and well-defined, other times it seems just a tad soft. Fine details are there, but the picture isn’t always brimming with them, which may indicate some digital tweaking. Colors can be vibrant and produce good-looking flesh tones, but the stylistic leanings of the cinematography tend to skew the hues at various points in the film. Blacks appear accurate. The image can be a bit contrasty, with the whites sometimes push the edge of becoming blown out. Shadow detail is pretty strong. The film elements from which SPY GAME has been mastered are generally very clean, but there are some imperfections. Grain is ever present, but due to stylization and tweaking of the image, it isn’t always at a consistent level.

SPY GAME is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. A mixture of talky political intrigue and all out action, the sound design wears two hats, but the lossless soundtrack delivers on both. All of the discrete channels engage for the explosions, gunfire and helicopters zooming around during the film’s intense action sequences. There are plenty discrete sound effects panning around the entire soundstage, including through the well-utilized surround channels. The quieter passages are more front-loaded, but do contain the requisite ambience and fill. Fidelity certainly gets a boost from the lossless encode, plus the bass channel kicks some serious booty and will keep the old subwoofer quite busy. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. French and Spanish DTS 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some extras, as well as the supplements, which have been ported from the DVD release. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries; the first is with director Tony Scott, while the second features producers Marc Abraham and Douglas Wick. Both commentaries offer a lot of details on the making of a complex motion picture such as this, with Scott’s talk going into the nitty-gritty of how shots were achieved. Next up is Clandestine Ops, which is a special viewing option for the motion picture. In this mode, the view can interactively select to view all sorts of supplementary material that pertains to a particular moment in the film (requires a Profile 1.1 player).

Also included on the disc are nine Deleted/Alternate Scenes, which can be viewed with or without director’s commentary. While all the material is interesting, ultimately it wound up on the cutting room floor to maintain the film’s brisk pacing. Script to Storyboard Process is a two-minute plus featurette with director Tony Scott that shows comparisons between the director’s drawings and the actual film footage. Requirements For CIA Acceptance is a straightforward text feature that explains how CIA candidate are chosen. SPY GAME is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

SPY GAME is a highly enjoyable political thriller featuring two generations of Hollywood’s top leading men. The Blu-ray presentation is very solid and should please fans.



Spy Game [Blu-ray] (2001)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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