There are a number of odd, external echoes to Spy Game. Robert Redford once starred in a dandy cloak-and-dagger thriller called ”Three Days of the Condor” (1975) as a rogue CIA employee who turns the agency’s dirty tricks against itself. Brad Pitt’s resemblance to the blithe young Redford has been much noted. Now here’s Pitt playing a rogue CIA employee who turns the agency’s dirty tricks against itself — and Redford as his mentor, an aging spook who has to rescue his protégé from a Chinese prison without leaving headquarters in Langley or alerting the higher-ups who want to sacrifice the kid on the altar of Sino-American business relations.
Not surprisingly, the flashback scenes that let the two stars actually bang heads are the core of Tony Scott’s visually overamped but generally rewarding bit of hugger-mugger. And as Redford plays cynical company hardass to Pitt’s naive assassin (it’s that kind of movie), the two seem to engage in a puckish, actorly version of the mirror sequence from ”Duck Soup.” Le Carré it ain’t, but ”Spy Game” does offer the pleasures of genre, and of two hunks shadowboxing across the generational divide.