In Spy Game, Redford and Pitt play CIA agents; Redford, once Pitt's mentor, arrives for his last day of work to discover that his former protege has been captured in China and that their mutual boss has decided that it's not worth it to rescue him. Throughout that 24 or so hour deadline before Pitt's execution, when Redford must tell the agency about his often difficult relationship with his old friend while also slyly engineering his rescue (partly, it becomes obvious, out of a sense of guilt and a newfound acceptance of his friend's life apart from him), Pitt is unconscious on the other side of the globe. In the lengthy flashbacks, they're as likely to be separated as together, occupying different spheres even when sitting across from each other at a table.
The framing cuts them apart and then the editing glues them back together until it becomes clear that their camaraderie isn't a question of professionalism and day-to-day interaction (the seeds of many of Hawks'—and Johnnie To's—most complex relationships) and is in fact an emotional bond existing on some kind of "more subtle level." Sure, ok, this is the usual male weepie hokum, but it's in movies more than anywhere else that hokum finds its greatest opportunity to be profound. At the speed at which the shots change, almost spinning, this idea is unable to be carried as a clearly-discernable metaphor; it simply becomes the accepted reality of the style. It's a bond that's already extant at the start of the film, and which we become privy to through rhythms; after a while, it's simply assumed that any shot of Redford will soon be followed by a shot of Pitt, regardless of where or when the two them are. Scott's intuitive approach—which eschews most conventions of setting up a scene (sometimes one will start only to briefly cut back to another one) and construction (unrelated shots from other scenes will be edited in)—lulls one into intuitions.
Scott's directorial technique uses a very large number of cameras and very few takes (at least for a modern Hollywood movie). It requires a finessed and detailed acting; as in certain kinds of theatre, a performance must function when viewed from any angle. It also gives performances an off-the-cuff quality, because these same actors who must act in all directions are also unable to grind a scene down to its bones over the course of a dozen takes. There's a lot of improvisatory fat, especially in Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, which—as a movie about two flawed men talking to each other over a radio—is nearly an epic of just-guys-shooting-the-shit hard-boiled one-liners, set-up & punchline games and epigrammatic nonsense.
Even the characters who start out as Michael Bay-like caricatures of authority (James Gandolfini's unpopular mayor, John Turturro's negotiator) grow into likeable people through a profusion of jokes and asides, more or less the same way as strangers stuck in the same place might come to be on friendly terms (it helps that both characters do not devolve, as their equivalents in Bay movies do, into punching bags for third act violence, but instead are shown to be helpful and worthwhile people). There's something genuine and uncomfortably intimate to this union of foul-mouthed voices who occupy the same screen but whose bodies are never in the frame together; when Travolta says to Denzel Washington, upon finally meeting him near the end of the film, "You're taller than I thought ... and good-looking, too," you know he means it.