The spy genre has undergone a great many transitions throughout the years, from the early gravitas laden Drama and capitalisation on real world politics to the lighter, gadget jammed Bond eras to the modern day persistence in being realistic. However, every now and then, a film comes along reminding you of the fun you can have with the genre, this year alone saw the release of Matthew Vaughn’s awesome, kinetic and crazy Kingsman: The Secret Service. Also, back in June, Paul Feig’s new Comedy caper Spy was released and in another case of cynical foresight, few of us really had many expectations for it. Although in fairness, it was not hard to see why. The posters made the film look like a very unwelcome throwback to the 90s epic fail that was Roger Spottiswoode’s Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (a film bad enough to make even Stallone regret starring in it). The trailers also added very little, relying on random scenes that made the film look like a sub-par genre parody littered with some admittedly big names. So imagine the surprise when critics raved, well upon watching Spy one thing is for sure, the surprise responses were justified.
Spy sees desk dwelling CIA Analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) drawn into the glamorous world of globetrotting missions, to avenge her partner, only to find that things aren’t quite as easy as the agents make it look. Soon Susan’s assignment takes her into very dangerous territory that leaves little room for error, which is unfortunate because many lie ahead! Now while this plot is not exactly the most startlingly original of stories- the film is complete with all the usual genre gubbins of nuclear plots and double crosses- there is no denying the brilliant script. Feig’s third teaming with McCarthy (after the good if slightly overrated Bridesmaids and the brilliant buddy cop caper The Heat) is one of their best yet and the memorably sidesplitting lines come thick and fast.
The film has a minor lag in the middle but you won’t remember the odd gag that doesn’t work, as you’ll still be guffawing at the cracking lines that do. Feig spends not one moment sitting in thought but instead embraces the silliness of the genre’s trappings, meaning a plethora of Bondish fun pokes (see the classy Ivy Levan opening credits song “Who Can You Trust”) but so much more in a film about the brilliant badassery of femininity (unpreachingly delivered) and the silly fun of spy movies. The film’s biggest flaw is the lack of a strong and memorable villain (which is a shame) but the host of characters on display here does in part make up for that.
Melissa McCarthy is an often-polarizing Comedy figure, with a marmite appeal to a lot of audiences, which is quite puzzling as she is a very good comic actress and Spy allows her full reign. McCarthy as Susan is likable, strong and a really connectable character that is not mocked as much as she is laughed along with. The supporting turns are also great fun with Jude Law embracing the role of self loving ace spy Bradley Fine, Rose Byrne letting loose the potty mouth and nastiness as glamorous but mean femme fatale Rayna Boyanov, Peter Serafinowicz stealing the odd scene as lecherous sex-starved Frenchman Aldo and even (another comic divider) Miranda Hart having moments to shine as Susan’s CIA buddy Nancy. However, in many ways, the film’s secret weapon is British hard man Jason Statham who taps into a wonderful comic ability you would have never guessed he had. Statham self-depreciates something rotten as Rick Ford and is an absolute eye watering joy to watch, striking up a great off kilter chemistry with McCarthy- the two are equally hilarious.
So while this caper is unbelievably silly and neither as keen nor crazy as Kingsman, it is a promising start for a potential new franchise that recalls a female led Naked Gun (with lots more swearing) or more crudely Bond with boobs. The writing is very funny; the action is surprisingly effective (there’s a superbly choreographed kitchen fight) and while it is not anyone’s idea of a searing satire, who cares? It’s an absolute hoot! Lets hope this bodes well for Feig’s upcoming (and very worrying) Ghostbusters reboot, although if all else fails, perhaps Susan Cooper will return with a welcome sequel (never thought we’d say that about Spy)…next stop though, a proper super villain for Susan to verbally berate (please - we love a good villain us)!
SPY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: PAUL FEIG/ SCREENPLAY: PAUL FEIG STARRING: MELISSA MCCARTHY, JUDE LAW, JASON STATHAM, ROSE BYRNE, MIRANDA HART, PETER SERAFINOWICZ / RELEASE DATE: 9TH NOVEMBER