Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Miranda Hart, Jude Law
Release Date: June 5th, 2015
Spy is a James Bond-type spoof that never loses sight of its story. The actors, help many of them playing broadly against type, medications seemingly find joy in breaking away from the concepts we hold of them and showing their true comedic capabilities. Writer/director Paul Feig— previously responsible for hits like Bridesmaids and The Heat— shows that he has a true connection with star Melissa McCarthy as this marks their third hilarious collaboration.
McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, capsule a CIA analyst who guides and supports Bradley Fine (Jude Law), an active undercover agent. Cooper, sitting in the basement of the rodent-filled CIA, watches and advises Fine over the phone as he engages in dangerous activities. During a botched mission though, a nuclear-armed terrorist named Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) sidelines Fine and threatens to take down a network of known CIA spies.
Although she was trained as an active agent (and her training videos show her abilities), Cooper has languished under her own self-doubt and never operated in the field. With the attack on Fine, she’s fired up— she was secretly harboring a crush on her partner— and volunteers to go undercover to take Boyanov down.
It’s an undeniable fact that the concept seems familiar (the 2010 comedy The Other Guys had a similar premise) but Feig and McCarthy are smart enough to make so many elements of this idea feel fresh.
Each of the main actors is given a role that seems suitably written for them but the characters they play take these actors a step further, which lets the cast poke fun at themselves.
Jason Statham plays Rick Ford, a CIA undercover agent who has plenty of experience in the field. Feig takes that stereotype a step further though. Ford isn’t a great agent. He has the looks and some of the discipline of a great agent but when he’s placed in a powerful position, he stumbles badly (never really accepting fault for his foibles). He’s the epitome of vainglorious but doesn’t even realize how pompous he sounds. Jude Law starts the film as a James Bond type (his attire even suggests the role) but just when we think he could be Bond, he sneezes or stumbles during the most important part of the mission.
Cooper is the opposite. She stumbles early on in the process but when she’s on a mission, she’s prepared for anything.
It’s as if these actors are making fun of what we think of them and also embracing that. A running joke focuses on the fact that the CIA never offers Cooper an exciting identity in the field. She’s offered the role of a boring housewife or a divorced woman. We’re laughing at these identities and so is McCarthy, who seems to relish in mocking the “types” of characters people see her as.
After the last few of her films (especially the atrocious Tammy), it seemed like McCarthy was stuck playing one-dimensional and obnoxious characters. Here, she’s neither and she reminds us that she can be as funny and unforgettable as any comic actress today if she’s given the right role to thrive in.
Spy offers her the right kind of role and it offers audiences a chance to laugh at actors who are willing to poke fun at themselves.
Review by: John Hanlon