Best for: Mature audiences who can follow the plot
What it's about: On the day CIA agent Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) is to retire, he discovers that his long-time friend and protégé Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) has been thrown in a Beijing jail on espionage charges and will be killed in 24 hours. Nathan's superiors ask for an account of the relationship between Nathan and Tom, but as the questioning continues, Nathan realizes the agency won't risk foreign relations to save Tom. As the hours dwindle, Nathan takes on his own dangerous mission to save his friend's life. Catherine McCormack plays the romantic interest.
The good: Seeing Redford and Pitt onscreen together gives the story passion and purpose, but director Tony Scott goes well beyond both of those ingredients to deliver an exciting, well-written, edge-of-your-seat spy adventure that will satisfy any lover of the genre.
The story is told through flashbacks covering a couple of decades, beginning in Vietnam, continuing through Berlin and Beirut, and ending in China. Redford and Pitt add their own brand of charisma, integrity and charm to an intriguing and intelligent story dealing with the dangerous world of espionage and the compromises it presents to those involved in it.
Themes of friendship, life, death and doing the right thing for the right reason make this a story strictly for adult fans who enjoy stories of intrigue. The film is enthralling from the opening scene to the last frame, and Redford and Pitt have charisma and chemistry.
Pitt has definitely hit his acting stride, turning in a well-rounded performance. He is the Redford of his generation, with both good looks and talent.
The not-so-good: From the intense opening scene to the end, this story deals with dramatic wartime life-and-death situations. The dialogue includes strong language and flashbacks showing war violence, several bloody deaths, scenes of torture and a few explosions. The only other drawback is that Redford, heartthrob of previous generations, looks old. He still has what it takes to deliver a strong character, but his age is definitely showing.
Offensive language: Strong language, including religious profanity.
Sexual situations: A romantic relationship between Pitt and McCormack implies the two sleep together, but no sexual situation is shown.
Violence: Several people are shot, bloody victims of bombings and war are shown, a man is electrocuted, and a man is tortured until his face is almost unrecognizable.
Parental advisory: The "R" rating is mostly for violence, but the historical flashbacks and espionage theme make this an adult story that is too intense and mature for children or even some young teenagers to watch.