Film Review – Spy (2015)

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Those familiar with writer-director Paul Feig and actress Melissa McCarthy’s prior collaborations will know exactly what to expect from their espionage spoof, Spy, but it’s nonetheless terrific fun. Feig toys with the classic clichés of the spy film whilst presenting a gag-filled romp that invites us to laugh alongside our progressive female protagonist.

Spy sees deskbound CIA analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy) sent into the field after her partner (Jude Law) goes off-grid and another’s (Jason Statham) identity is compromised. Cooper is sent to track down Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne), a criminal looking to make a nuclear arms deal in Europe.

Although the sense of humour doesn’t deviate too far from that expected, Feig finds freshness by relocating to a backdrop of global espionage. Whilst there is a glossy blandness to the spy angle (locations are serviceable, yet never too glamorous or exotic, and the plotting is a little hackneyed), Spy serves as more of a testament to McCarthy’s endearing comic skills than flat-out espionage spoof. Placing McCarthy in this madcap world of arms deals, exotic locations, and over-the-top villains, is nonetheless lively and amusing.

Cooper is one of McCarthy’s most enjoyable roles to date. Originally sympathetically presented as single, middle-aged, presumed ‘cat lady’ oppressed by the CIA’s patriarchal leanings, Coop is a ballsy and formidable agent in the field. Of course McCarthy does let the dopiness creep in alongside these impressive spy skills providing a mix of brassy confidence and flat-out silliness – a combination which results in McCarthy being her most amusing, An exchange with Byrne’s Boyanov on a private jet is McCarthy at her hilarious ballsy best, whilst a chase through Paris resulting in Cooper crashing a concert from cameoing Eurovision drag-artist Verka Serduchka, showcases the actress at her most wonderfully silly.

Spy also flips our expected preconceptions by showcasing an unexpected violent streak. There’s a sharp brutality in the semi-well choreographed fight scenes, with this often played for expected comic-effect. Spy also flips the conventional male spy personas – Jason Statham‘s agent Rick Ford speaks tough but proves completely incompetent in the field, allowing the actor a rare chance to show off his comic chops. Law’s Bradley Fine sucks the charm out of the traditional suave Bond role and replaces it with 100% smarm.

However Spy’s strongest assets are its female characters – and not just McCarthy’s Cooper. On point support from Allison Janney, Miranda Hart and Rose Byrne ensures there are always consistent laughs to be had. Byrne excels as the stilted and painfully glamorous villainess, with the actress revelling in playing a character who is as cold as ice. Hart is a surprisingly welcome addition who brings something which can only be described as an amusingly awkward Britishness to the fold. The combination of a Hart and McCarthy team-up in the latter half of Spy is such an odd mix, but it’s one that really does work and allows the film to hit new highs.

Spy is a testament to the collaborative magic that Feig and McCarthy consistently produce. With enough novelty added from the espionage angle, Spy might be predictable but it’s a helluva lot of fun.

Andrew McArthur

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Action | Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox | Release Date: 5th June 2015 (UK)| Rating: 15 | Director: Paul Feig | Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Miranda Hart