Movie Review: Spy


Susan Cooper, a CIA agent whose experience in the agency has been entirely behind a computer, volunteers to go out in the field to track down a rogue nuclear weapon.


Paul Feig, 2015

For her entire CIA career, Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has been sitting behind a desk. She works in support of top field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law), a dashing spy who relies on her to get himself out of danger. When he’s taken out of action, Cooper volunteers to go to Europe undercover to discover the whereabouts of a missing nuke. She is sent to observe and report on Sergio de Luca (Bobby Cannavale), a playboy criminal who may lead them to the only person who knows the whereabouts of the weapon: Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne), the daughter of an infamous Bulgarian criminal. Warned not to get close to her targets, Cooper finds herself drawn into the action when rogue agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) screws up. Soon enough, she finds that she is the only one who can find the nuke and prevent a national disaster.


At the time of writing this review, I’ve seen Spy three times. Luckily it’s a pretty fucking fantastic movie. Spy works both as a parody of the spy movie genre and an example of the genre itself. It’s consistently funny, but it’s also cool, slick, and exciting, and it looks terrific. It knows the beats of a spy movie and hits them while simultaneously subverting its tropes: the major players in this movie are all women (the main spy, her boss, her best friend, her arch nemesis, etc.), while the fumbling sidekick and sex symbol are men. Even better, the film never makes a fat joke. Susan is disappointed in the direction her life has taken, but the jokes about her are based on her being frumpy and mousy rather than fat. In fact, the jokes are often on the people making fun of her, rather than Susan herself. She has so many kick-ass moments. The soundtrack is also terrific, with echoes of Bond in between great girl power songs.

The cast is almost uniformly terrific. Melissa McCarthy runs the gamut of her abilities without losing track of who Susan is at the core, getting to be cute and badass. In a way, the film could be seen as an analogy for her own career: she’s placed in roles based on how people see her, but in reality she’s so much more than those stereotypes she’s saddled with. Miranda Hart shines in her Hollywood debut as Cooper’s best friend Nancy, Allison Janney is snarky fun as their CIA boss, and Rose Byrne is cut-glass, incompetent genius as the villain of the piece, her chemistry with McCarthy driving much of the comedy. But the revelation of the film is Jason Statham, who riffs on his tough-guy persona perfectly. He gets the biggest laughs of the film, and he deserves all of them. Only Jude Law feels out of place – using an American accent, he’s weirdly less charming than usual, and doesn’t seem to completely commit to the comedy. It’s not enough to really upset the balance of the film, though, a careful tightrope of long riff-style comedy, slapstick, and inverted expectations. There are a couple of shock moments (one gory, one phallic), but I can personally attest to it crossing cultures and generations surprisingly well. Basically, this movie is a whole lot of fun, so if you haven’t seen it already, get yourself to the cinema.

Spy on IMDb


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