********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Paul Feig
Actors: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Jude Law
We are in the midst of a ‘spyfest’ in 2015. Secret agents around every corner, in pursuit of highly confidential items, either stolen or the enemy’s, with the existence of the human race at stake more often than not. We already had Kingsman: The Secret Service, soon to be followed up with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Spectre. Gritty movies, with the leading agents taking their jobs seriously. Amongst them is this fascinating actress, Melissa McCarthy, who is crazy enough to believe that she too can be a spy, that she too can shoot down the thugs in a matter of seconds, that she too can kick some butt. Oh well, guess what, she very well can! Spy, with as simplistic a name as that, holds a much more fascinating plot than what one would have initially imagined, and under the expert command and guidance of Paul Feig, brings out the best of Melissa McCarthy, to turn this into a laugh-riot adventure, something so badly needed.
Spy begins with CIA Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) in Bulgaria on a mission to hunt for a suitcase nuke bomb. Helping him through an earpiece is the desk bound CIA analyst, Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy). Such has been their partnership for a long time. But when things go awry, the CIA needs an agent unknown to its enemies to track the whereabouts of the nuke bomb, and in steps Susan Cooper who volunteers to go on the mission. Not happy with this decision is Agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham), but their boss, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) gives Cooper the go-ahead. What is about to follow is an adventure across Europe where the forgotten skills of Agent Cooper will resurface as she infiltrates deeper and deeper into the criminal world than she had been earlier expected to. Things are about to get messy!
A lot of credit for Spy goes to Paul Feig who is the hero of the film behind the cameras. He has co-produced the movie, written the screenplay, and then went on to direct it. The man who shot to fame with Bridesmaids and then delivered once more with The Heat, has not relaxed on his laurels here. Paul Feig has turned Spy into a female-driven Bond-like movie, which despite falling in the comedy genre, has a meaningful, intriguing and suspense-filled story that would have fit well in any other popular spy film. There are many hilarious references to the James Bond movies, be it the poster which had a golden colored McCarthy holding a gun (a reference to Goldfinger), or the film’s own Q that hands over new gadgets to the agent (each one sillier than the next), or the exquisite locations, or the ‘save the world’ premise itself. Paul Feig has kept the color palette bright and vibrant, so as not to get the audience to take things too seriously. His script is a wonderful example of comedy that does not end up being too silly; comedy in the right amount mixed with action, drama, suspense, and a bit of sentimentality too. The characters are well carved out, giving them personalities that add value to the movie. It is another splendid work by Feig!
Spy is the perfect vessel created for Melissa McCarthy to steer. And she does a fantastic job as the captain of this ship. She begins the movie as a desk agent, good at her job but insecure of herself, and gradually grows into the role of a confident field agent. Her character of Susan Cooper is someone worthy of rooting for, honest and hard-working, someone wanting to do more with her life. To add to that, McCarthy’s comic timing is flawless; she isn’t loud, she isn’t in your face, rather her style is something that suits her alone. Her insult comedy is hilarious, but even otherwise, her quirks are pleasant to the eye and add more color to the movie. Complementing her is the surprising comedy bit from Jason Statham. Hats off to this action star to be willing to make this transition as a supporting actor in a comedy movie, and still pull off one of his most memorable performances. He brags, he taunts, he messes things up, but he is an important piece of this movie, bringing forth some of the loudest laughs. The banter between Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham is such a treat, and so beautiful to watch.
There is a good supporting cast around McCarthy in Spy. Jude Law plays a field agent, with a bit of suave in the Bond-like category. Miranda Hart plays McCarthy’s best friend and another desk agent, who too finds herself way out of her depths in this mission. But Miranda Hart the actress does not, and her bumbling buffoon-like antics bring some physical comedy to the movie. Rose Byrne is a bit stiff as the antagonist, but I read somewhere that the role was supposed to be written for a 19-year old before it had to be changed to fit in Bryne; so now I can understand where her character’s traits come from. The veteran Allison Janney is wonderful as the no-nonsense CIA boss with little sense of humour. Peter Serafinowicz puts up the act of an Italian agent in a caricature sort of manner, bringing in another element of humour.
Spy is yet another fantastic collaboration between Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy, their third movie now. Paul Feig brings out the best of McCarthy, and similarly, McCarthy gives more vibrancy to Feig’s movies and raises the bar. It’s the seriousness with which the two take their comedy that makes such movies worth watching. Spy is a delightful break from the otherwise darker films that the summer period is filled with, and now I can’t wait for the next Feig-McCarthy collaboration, Ghostbusters. Bring it on!