Most of the cast of Paul Feig's espionage flavoured comedy Spy may play CIA agents but it's pretty clear that he's far more interested in a certain superspy from UK rivals MI6. What else could explain the "cold open" with a suave spy infiltrating a fancy, if heavily guarded party, seeking out international terrorists while accompanied by a very familiar sounding "stealthy" violin and flute score? An infiltration mission that all too soon devolves into a pitched gunfight and a daring escape? The spy in question, Bradley Fine, is even played by Jude Law for that extra British flavour for Pete's sake!
All that said, Fine has one up on Bond in the form of a little real-time, remote assistance from analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy), on hand back home via earpiece and satellite, who saves Fine's neck more than once. Once back home and it's discovered that a suitcase nuke has been "lost" (in one of the best gags in the movie, if you haven't seen the trailer) and that the identities of the CIA's best field agents have been compromised, it's up to Susan to step out from behind her keyboard, switch from being Chloe O'Brian to being Jack Bauer and get out into the field in a series of insulting cover identities (weird divorcee, crazy cat lady, all with awful hair) to try track down the nuke via spoilt brat Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne).
Feig, director of McCarthy's most successful ventures by far, has cleverly avoided using McCarthy as the "crazy one" here, as she has been in films such as The Heat, Bridemaids or Tammy (which he didn't direct) and instead uses her as the eye of relative normality around which a tornado of deranged characters rotates; Law's pretty boy spy; Statham's overly intense, dumber than a box of rocks agent, Rick Ford; Byrne's prissy, stuck-up Boyanov; Peter Serafinowicz's overly handsy Aldo; and Miranda Hart's relatively normal, if enthusiastic Nancy, McCarthy's best friend in the agency.
Statham is hilarious as the genuinely thick agent who regularly messes up his missions and honestly believes that the CIA actually has a "face-off" machine. It's great to see a comical side to "The Stath'" and hopefully it's something he will show off more in future. Likewise Byrne is absolutely delightful in her utter horribleness, while Hart easily holds her own with the Hollywood regulars. McCarthy, however remains the real star of the show, getting the biggest laughs as Susan improvises wildly to the changing circumstances around her, developing a joyous line in swearing in her cover identities and kicking a surprising amount of ass.
Despite some weird technical overlays that appear without warning the film rarely misses a step and without too much cheap humour at McCarthy's expense, a surprising plot twist and an inspired post-credits scene, Spy will nicely tide espionage fans over until Spectre and The Man from UNCLE arrive later in the year.
SPY / CERT:15 / DIRECTOR: PAUL FEIG / SCREENPLAY: PAUL FEIG / STARRING: MELISSA MCCARTHY, JUDE LAW, JASON STATHAM, ROSE BYRNE, ALLISON JANNEY, PETER SERAFINOWICZ, MIRANDA HART / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 5TH
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10