Directed by Tony Scott, starring Robert Redford, Brad Pitt and Catherine McCormack.

With the likes of 'Top Gun', 'The Last Boy Scout' and 'True Romance' to his name, Tony Scott's foray into espionage was never destined to be a 'Three Days of the Condor' or 'Gorky Park'. But with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt onscreen and undercover, you'd expect a little more than the reheated thrills and readymade ending of 'Spy Game'.

Redford is Nathan Muir, a wily CIA relic from when "you could tell the good guys from the bad guys" who's just one day off retirement. The last shift doesn't go quite to plan however, when Muir discovers that his one-time protégé and now freelance operative Tom Bishop (a poorly scripted Pitt) is facing execution in a Chinese jail. With the US president about to hold trade talks in Beijing, the men in suits want as much distance from Bishop as possible and ask Muir to recount their shared history. But despite swearing to himself that self-preservation is the only law of nature, Muir uses their inquiries to kick-start a race against time to save his former friend.

Playing a man riddled with other people's secrets and his own regrets gives Redford one of his strongest roles in years - unfortunately the story just fails to do his performance justice. Scott is nothing if not a genre director and his latest is riddled with every cliché in the (code) book - from rotund allies in far-flung offices to car chase decoys.

Sure it looks superb, but as Muir recounts his missions with Bishop in Vietnam, Berlin and Beirut, you'll realise that none of these international sequences are as interesting as watching Redford under the lamp at CIA headquarters. Instead of keeping it subtle and simple, Scott tries to cram too much in, and the explanation of how Muir and Bishop split after a botched job and an encounter with an aid worker (McCormack) fails to deliver on either a dramatic or romantic level.

If Scott really wanted to make a worthy addition to the cloak and dagger canon, he should have ditched convention, taken a risk and left Redford slowly swapping one-liners and icy stares with his paymasters. He opts instead for the big locations, explosions and an ending which suggests that busting someone out of a maximum security prison only takes a phone call and a bank giro.

Redford is great - treat the rest on a don't-need-to-know basis.

Harry Guerin