David Koeppel
September 10, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

This exhilarating spy-vs.-spy thriller begins with a bang of a premise: Two British agents are assigned to assassinate each other. Middle-aged George and 27-year-old Charlie are far from swaggering James Bond types. ”Haven’t you ever read le Carré?” George asks Charlie at the London photo-shop undercover operation where they both work (unaware of each other’s identity). ”Spies are nobodies. Ordinary crappy people, in ordinary crappy jobs.” Instead of killing each other, the two form an unlikely friendship as they’re ruthlessly pursued by forces that want them eliminated at any cost. With its excruciating tension and cynical humor (headquarters is so inhospitable ”spies who came in from the cold…usually went straight back out again”), Good News, Bad News pays a fitting postmodern tribute to le Carré.

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