Review by Nathan Miller
I have always been a huge fan of spy films. Whether they are comedic like Johnny English, nostalgic like From Russia with Love, or modern like Kingsman: The Secret Service, I eat them up and enjoy the thrills they provide. Spy embodies a mixture of all of these films, but it is still a comedy true to its core. Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) directed and wrote this female dominant spy flick. He honors the traditions associated with secret agents yet creates a slapstick adventure that will have you rolling from the very first punchline. The cast is very prominent and strong in their rolls, and the script is written well enough to keep you laughing on the edge of your seat. Spy has an interesting dynamic to it that tethers between serious and raunchy, and I would not want it any other way.
Spy is centered around a deskbound CIA agent, Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy), who provides analytical information to her partner and field agent, Bradley Fine (Jude Law). The film is about locating a portable nuclear device that has disappeared after Bradley accidentally kills the only individual to know of its whereabouts. As the agency regroups, Susan begins to question her worth at the agency and feels she is living a boring life. It is determined that the deceased individual's daughter, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), may know the location of the nuclear device. Bradley is sent to infiltrate her home with Susan providing analytic support from her desk. He is killed in action by Rayna, and she acknowledges the identities of all of the CIA's top field agents as a warning to back off. In honor of her late partner, Susan volunteers to become a field agent for the first time in her career. The CIA agrees because of her unlikeness to come off as an agent, but top agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) does not agree with the decision and quits out of retaliation. As Susan goes throughout her mission, Rick is constantly popping up unexpectedly along with other strange happenstances.
Spy has so many hilarious moments that I could end up listing and ruining more than half of the film. I nearly died laughing when Susan is given her field gear for the first time, and there are so many moments of her being let down that it becomes an ongoing theme of hilarity. The reason this film works so well is because of the desire many people hold of wanting to be a secret agent. Spy hits this idea right on the head, and it sells the dream of being an undercover agent in the CIA very well. Of course, it is quite the struggle for Susan but she embraces it nonetheless. The story was brought to life thanks to its fantastic cast. Susan's closest companions, Nancy (Miranda Hart) and Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz), were major highlights of the film. Their characters were grand in nature and never fell flat in the delivery of memorable moments. Everyone in the film seemed natural and believable regardless of the zaney scenario at hand. Even though Rick (Statham) is sold as the no holds barred agent in the trailers, his character is so not how he was shown and that is a good thing. Rick's extravagant tales and constant bickering towards Susan were always welcomed by me, and it was hilarious each and every time his klutziness shined through his bullshit. The chemistry between characters was detrimental to the success of so many scenes. Another scene that busted me up was Susan's first field kill. It should not have been funny, yet it is sold in a way that captures not only the spirit of the film but its essence: an offbeat and awkward yet clever action comedy.
The cinematography was great especially with capturing the essence of what makes a great spy flick. The action was surprisingly on point, and the fight sequences were well choreographed. There were some real brutal moments that helped reaffirm why this was a rated "R" film, and I appreciate the filmmakers for not holding back just to get a PG-13 rating. There were a lot of nods to classic spy films, and it shows the admiration the filmmakers had for those type of movies. This film is primarily a female dominated cast, and they absolutely turned a genre known for being sexist upside down on its head. It speaks volumes just how well this film worked, and it really should not matter the gender of the actors. This film illustrates what many people should already know: a good script is nothing without good actors and filmmakers who actually appreciate and believe in it. There are a lot of scenes that were taken to a whole other level thanks to the actresses and actors in this film.
The film was a bit too vulgar at moments, and a few characters in the film even questioned the untasteful language. They may have taken it a bit too far on a few moments. The bats and rats that were in the "basement" of the CIA building were questionable. Even though it created some very funny moments, their only purpose was to show how little the CIA cared about their analytical department, but this could have been done with more practical means. The cameo in the film of a famous rapper was dumb, and their inclusion really bothered me. He did not add anything worthwhile to the film, and I would have preferred someone who was actually from a spy flick to cameo instead. Lastly, the soundtrack of the film left more to be desired. Certain songs were occasionally a nuisance to great action scenes, and different tracks could have better fitted those moments.
McCarthy and crew really delivered in Spy. The film encompasses all the best traits of a spy flick yet breaks from the norm of what is expected in order to make you laugh. It is a movie that can easily become an established new franchise in a remake happy Hollywood, and I for one would love to see more of Susan's career as a field agent. There are so many moments in this film that I want to talk about with others but cannot because it would ruin the film for them. If you enjoy spy flicks and love to laugh, there is no reason why you should not watch Spy. I expected so little from this film, yet I walked away with a little more faith in McCarthy's acting choices and of original comedies.