SPY GAME. Universal Pictures, 2001. Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Larry Bryggman, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, David Hemmings. Director: Tony Scott.

   One of my favorite subgenres of the spy film or novel is that of the grizzled old field agent (figuratively speaking) who’s approaching his last day on the job is approaching quickly, whether voluntarily or (in some cases) being shoved out the door in a quiet but efficient bum’s rush. This one’s the former, but it makes no difference. When a small crisis comes up, Matthew Muir (Robert Redford) gets quite a bit of satisfaction in knowing that he’s really still at the top of his game.

   On his last day at the CIA, it helps that he still on contacts around the world who can give him a full warning that something has happened in China that he needs to know about, well before he’s called into a meeting with his superiors, men in suits all, with no particular expertise in the field.

   What has happened is that one of Muir’s former proteges, a fellow named Bishop (Brad Pitt), has gotten himself captured trying to free another prisoner, and unless the US makes some concessions on an trade agreement still being negotiated, Bishop will be executed. Muir has only 24 hours to clean things up.

   Much of the film is taken up by flashbacks to show how Muir developed Bishop as an agent, starting back in the Vietnam War. The relationship, while generally friendly, was also very often a prickly one, and of course it was a girl Bishop is attracted to that causes a serious rupture in their relationship. But in the present, Bishop has to somehow be rescued, and it is the wiles of Muir that are needed, while at the same time keeping the brass at the top off his back.

   It’s a neat trick if he can do it, and it is Robert Redford who is perfect in the part of the visibly aging Muir, who shows us all that you should never count out older guys when it comes down to getting things done, and that experience matters too.

   So as I say, this movie was a lot of fun to watch. Adding to the verisimilitude of a story taking place in wartorn Middle Eastern locale, much of the movie was filmed in Lebanon, with lots of well photographed action to go along with the tricks and chits that Muir is able to call in. I enjoyed this one.