by Elizabeth Stoddard
Director Paul Feig (The Heat, Bridesmaids) and actress Melissa McCarthy team up yet again for Spy (which Feig also wrote). The movie riffs on the spy genre, with McCarthy cast as ace CIA analyst Susan Cooper, stuck behind a desk helping her longtime crush, spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law). A series of events leads her into the field where she can finally show off her skills.
It’s like if Alias had a raunchy sense of humor… well, really, there is little cinematic comparison to this original entry to the genre. You can read James’ review for more detail, but I felt it worth noting specifically what makes this movie so wonderfully different from the usual summer film fare.
6. Spy is a silly spy-spoof, while still being an excellent spy flick. From the first notes of the Bond-influenced score, the Bond-like opening credits sequence (accompanied by bombastic pop ballad, “Who Can You Trust”), to the Bourne-like end credits, this comedy is an obvious homage to the blockbusters that have preceded it. Yet, instead of being, say, “Not Another Spy Movie,” Spy brings its own assets to the genre. The fight scenes are well-choreographed (the kitchen sequence could be up there with that in The Bourne Identity, but I’d like to see Jason Bourne use a pan so deftly) and the writing has more depth (and more female characters talking to each other) than your usual tentpole.
5. The film is packed with varying types of humor. There’s something here for everyone — gross-out/scatalogical humor, silliness, sight gags, stupid jokes, and even some dark humor as well. Feig’s script cracks along at such a pace that the laughs are almost constant throughout.
4. Spy reminds us that Jason Statham can be funny. The actor seems to have found a niche in the action/adventure world, playing transporters or save-the-world type guys who are mostly serious about their work. His character here, CIA asset Rick Ford, is equally serious about his job, but in a manner so he appears ridiculous. He lists the many preposterous dangers he’s survived, with such dry delivery that one can’t help but cackle. He plays the fumbling spaz/possible love interest — the type of role so many female actresses have been relegated to in the past — and he pulls. it . off.
3. Miranda Hart almost steals the show. As a fan of the British comic actress from Call the Midwife (or her self-named show, Miranda), I’ve got my fingers crossed that her performance here nets her some more film roles. As Susan’s friend/fellow analyst Nancy, she and McCarthy play off each other exceedingly well. She even charms 50 Cent!
2. Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper. Compared to some of her other film roles, McCarthy as Susan Cooper is practically understated. Once she takes initiative to go out into the field (after years of being kept down in the basement by others & her own expectations), Cooper takes on a few assigned personas before creating her own. She befriends her enemies (specifically Rose Byrne’s arms-trader character), and comes to realize she is amazingly good at being a spy. Many working women can certainly sympathize with the limitations placed on Cooper — her character’s arc is more than a little inspiring.
1. Spy celebrates powerful women. Along with McCarthy and Hart, Allison Janney and Rose Byrne appear in sizable roles. Janney’s team chief Elaine Crocker is no-nonsense; she’s skeptical, yet ultimately supportive of Susan working outside of her usual bubble. Byrne — with a crazy accent and even crazier hair-style — is able to give depth to her character, especially in scenes with McCarthy. Ultimately the movie treats the idea of dimensional female characters in leadership roles, creating their own path, as a normative notion. And yet this still seems such a rare occurrence in mainstream film that I feel the need to emphasize it. Thanks, Paul Feig.