A Copenhagen detective tracks down the terrorist responsible for his partner’s death. By-the-numbers thriller with a few flourishes typical of its director (a Vertigo reference here, a fascination with screens and technology) but also a flat script and a lack of enthusiasm for its rote story and characters throughout.
Spy Game (2001, dir. Tony Scott)
A veteran spy on his last day at the CIA works to protect a compromised asset. Slick and confident thriller balancing office politics, espionage and action moments. An entertainment in the sense of the kind of film Graham Greene might have directed in the 2000s.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012, dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
A dramatisation of the hunt for and killing of Osama Bin Laden. Sober and focused, with an eye for detail and on the selling of its version of events as truth through the use of faux documentary techniques, this works as an intelligent thriller throughout.
American Made (2017, dir. Doug Liman)
The story of Barry Seal, who smuggled for the CIA and the cartels in the 80s. Swaggering rise and fall biopic in the GoodFellas mould; hugely impressive and entertaining, while offering a reminder of another of the US’s recent murky pasts.
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American Assassin (2017, dir. Michael Cuesta)
A headstrong young man joins a CIS black ops team to get revenge on the terrorists who killed his fiance. Straightforward basic training and first mission movie (adapted from the Vince Flynn novels) which escalates awkwardly from fisticuffs to stolen nukes and an iffily CG-ed armada. Patchy.
The Bourne Legacy (2012, dir. Tony Gilroy)
A non-Bourne series entry, parallel to the events of The Bourne Ultimatum. A slightly SF riff on the franchise, this is hampered by the lack of a third act, but the action is good, and there’s plenty of quality character actors barking orders.
Scorpio (1973, dir. Michael Winner)
A veteran CIA agent wants out; he goes on the run, his protege is contracted to kill him. Glum international thriller that wants to be Le Carre. Some good moments and much quality in the cast, but this is standard downbeat spy stuff.
Body of Lies (2008, dir. Ridley Scott)
A CIA operative in the Middle East is caught between conflicting loyalties. Good-looking and well-directed though predictable tale of post-9/11 espionage, with opaque masculine moralities contrasted with a female archetype representing possible redemption.
2 Guns (2013, dir. Baltasar Kormakur)
Two undercover agents get in over their heads with cross-border drug traffickers and worse. Sprightly mismatched-buddies comedy thriller with engaging leads, bags of action, and a decent supporting cast all working well. Thoroughly entertaining.
Unlocked (2017, dir. Michael Apted)
A CIA interrogator uncovers a terrorist conspiracy. Okay London-set thriller with a decent cast and some excellent location work; better at the nuts-and-bolts of tradecraft early in the flick than the last act move into big-stakes tomfoolery.