Spy Game was released in 2001, starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. How did they fare as special agents?

It is not one of those films, where spies wear elegant suits, drink Martinis, use amazing gadgets and drive fast cars. Instead we get operatives using their wits to make progress. Redford and Pitt performed marvellously, one playing reasonable Nathan Muir, the other impersonating young, spontaneous and emotion-driven Tom Bishop.


The film covers Muir‘s last 24 in the CIA. The day was supposed to be calm, but unfortunately the matters turned around 180‘. It appears that Bishop got himself in major trouble trying to rescue his friend from a Chinese prison. Alas – he almost succeeded, but was

China is one of few countries that still exercise death penalty. Moreover, they show the highest number of executions worldwide. Which crimes are punishable by death? There are 55 of them, including bombing attacks, human trafficking, or compromising national security – which means espionage.

Rescuing the woman, Bishop managed to enter the prison posing as a physician intending to vaccinate the inmates. Along with 3 associates, the young spy managed to short-circuit the electrical system. This way, he managed to knock out the power and surveillance cameras. Pretending to be dead from electrocution, his ‘body‘ was carried deeper into the building. There, being constantly informed about the situation via a micro earphone, he found the woman he was looking for. He blew up the lock of her cell door, took her away and attempted to drive away in an ambulance. Unfortunately, the refugees were brought to a halt and placed back in prison.

The film shows micro earphones, gear that has been – and still is – used by intelligence agents due to its reliability. Such micro earpieces are readily available at the Detective Store.

The CIA tried to cover up the situation involving the younger spy, yet Muir was determined to rescue his old friend.

Where did Muir and Bishop meet?

Nathan, one of the best CIA operatives, met Tom in Vietnam. He recruited him to eliminate a high priority target, and even though it was no easy task, he managed to succeed. That is how Bishop gained Muir‘s esteem, who later offered him to work as a spy.

Tom Bishop agreed at once, but before he got his first assignments, he needed to receive proper training, with Nathan as his mentor.

Espionage in the film is depicted in an interesting way. It shows Muir teaching and preparing his apprentice. A good spy is able to perform threat assessment in any situation – e.g. in a cafe, or any other place. He needs to have photographic memory and be able to notice even the tiniest of details indicating than a given person might be dangerous. One of the tests depicted in the film involved getting to the balcony of a completely unknown apartment, which Bishop managed to do in mere 5 minutes.

Apart from the above, Bishop was trained to use radio equipment, or to deceive a polygraph.

It is worth noticing that the balcony scene is an authentic test, which was described in a book written by a former Mossad agent, who took it during his training.

Bishop listened to Muir‘s advice carefully, memorizing everything, as according to Nathan, it was the best, old school method that always worked. After the tests, both agents experienced a dozen-odd years of joint operations. The protagonists grew accustomed to each other and became friends, risking their lives together during most important of operations worldwide.

Working for the US government requires a lot of sacrifice, often operating under a fake name and frequent travels. This, however, does not mean that an agent cannot fall in love – and that was what started Bishop‘s trouble.

After their last joint assignment, Muir and Bishop parted ways. After a few years, their paths crossed once again. The older agent had to save his friend from peril, in which he got himself while rescuing his beloved from the Chinese. Muir set all his contacts in motion, making lots of phone calls ‘ not from his office of course, as every CIA operative is kept under constant surveillance. Remaining unnoticed and covering his tracks, he was able to rescue Bishopa in Operation Dinner Out, involving the US military stationing near the Chinese prison. Being the very best operative, he managed to do it without leaving the CIA headquarters.

What is curious is the fact that Redford, playing Muir, used his own mobile phone while arranging for Bishop‘s rescue. It is a mistake, since the walls of the CIA building are constructed and protected to render using unauthorized phones technically impossible.

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