Spy (2015)

Spy (2015)
  • Time: 120 min
  • Genre: Action | Comedy
  • Director: Paul Feig
  • Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Raad Rawi


Susan Cooper is an unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst, and the unsung hero behind the Agency’s most dangerous missions. But when her partner falls off the grid and another top agent is compromised, she volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent a global crisis.


  • Parodies of the spy film and in particular the James Bond movies have been around for as long as the genre has existed, with notable entries being Johnny English and the Austin Powers movies. But these parodies have never really been executed too well using American characters (although Austin Powers were Hollywood movies, the character was still British), so I had little faith in Spy, something that was soon proven wrong.

    Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is a CIA agent who handles field agent and super-spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) from the CIA headquarters in Washington. After a mission goes wrong where Bradley is killed and the covers of all CIA field agents is blown, Susan is the only person who can go undercover and recover a nuclear weapon being sold by villainess Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne). Susan must also contend with the arrogant rogue agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) who doesn’t believe she can complete the mission on her own and wishes to garner all the glory.

    The film parodies a lot of the elements of a James Bond movie, and quite well too. Everything from the cars to the gadgets to the glamorous women appear. The opening title sequence is even a perfect match to one of those films. The movie does try to delve into some of the more in-depth subplots that involves a double CIA agent that is played by Morena Baccarin. This seems a little out of place and only adds confusion to a rather simple and enjoyable plot.

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  • Melissa McCarthy is not Julia Roberts. Yet here she is in Spy, having her Pretty Woman moment at the practically geriatric age of 45.

    McCarthy has been in the business for the past two decades, first gaining notice as Sookie St. James in the beloved Gilmore Girls. She knocked about in television and film, logging in supporting turns, mostly as the leading lady’s funny sidekick. She seemed destined to always be Ethel, never Lucy. Then came Mike and Molly but, more importantly, there was Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids. McCarthy was Megan, and her big, brash, and bold turn was like a wrecking ball to your funny bone. Comic performances don’t get much respect at the Academy Awards, but her tour-de-force earned a well-deserved Supporting Actress nomination. She has since racked up a string of hits – Identity Thief, The Heat, Tammy – but Spy is something more than another success to add to the roster. Like Roberts in Pretty Woman, McCarthy’s role (or roles) in Spy marks her coronation as a full-fledged star.

    McCarthy’s Susan Cooper seems an unlikely candidate for crowning – fortysomething, single – but she is the personification of the saying, “Behind every good man, there’s a good woman.” She may be a mere CIA analyst stuck behind a desk in a basement that serves as a hotel of sorts to bats and vermin and who knows what else, but secret agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) would be nothing without her. Of course, Susan would probably be more than his glorified Moneypenny if she didn’t have an unrequited crush on him. The opening sequence in which she maneuvers Fine past a series of obstacles and armed assailants demonstrates her skills, intelligence, and ability to remain cool under pressure. Then the blithely grateful Fine offhandedly remarks, “I could kiss you,” and she dissolves into girlish glee. “I would accept that with an open mouth.”

    When Fine is killed during a mission gone awry, Susan convinces Deputy Director Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) to let her enter the field to track down Fine’s murderer: haughty Bulgarian arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne). Boorish agent Richard Ford (Jason Statham) can’t believe Crocker would send in an unqualified desk drone to do his job, but Crocker has no choice. Rayna claims to know the identities of all active agents, so Susan is the CIA’s only hope. Besides, Susan did ace her field training test back when she first started working at the CIA, and she is technically an agent. Armed with a series of embarrassing cover identities (a divorced housewife with 10 cats) and high-tech gizmos (laxatives to counteract poison), Susan is ordered to simply track and report Rayna’s movements. Of course, Susan does more than ordered, pursuing Rayna across the globe whilst trying to deal with various foreign baddies, Ford’s constant interference, and the amorous advances of Italian agent Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz).

    Every single component in Spy is so perfectly aligned. The action sequences – especially a wonderfully choreographed kitchen fight between McCarthy and Bollywood actress Nargis Fakhri that is punctuated with well-dropped comic beats – are dynamic. The script is almost too good – there are so many hilarious moments and one-liners that half of them are drowned out by laughter. The actors are top-notch. Law, Serafinowicz, and the towering Miranda Hart (as McCarthy’s best buddy) excel whilst Bobby Cannavale is gloriously sleazy as arms dealer Sergio De Luca.

    Special praise is reserved for Byrne and Statham. The Aussie actress, who also appeared in Bridesmaids, has proven time and time again what a brilliant comedic actress she is. Rayna Boyanov might be her best turn to date. Encased in an array of animal prints, teetering on high heels, and balancing a coiffure that could double as a landing pad, Byrne is sensational. Her every pore drips with imperious disdain. Her exchanges with McCarthy, in which they try to top each other’s putdowns, are absolute highlights. Statham hasn’t flexed his comic muscles since his Guy Ritchie days, and what an utter delight he is. His ongoing litany of all the things he’s gone through in the line of duty – setting himself on fire, putting shards in his eye, sewing one arm back on, being immune to 179 different kinds of poison – is just plain hysterical.

    Spy, however, is McCarthy’s film all the way. Not only is it a supreme showcase for her verbal and physical strengths as a performer, it also provides her with an opportunity to expand her range. It is a complex portrayal – note the deftness and balance with which she switches, merges, and builds upon identities whilst still retaining the character’s core qualities of goodheartedness and loyalty. She runs the gamut from timid girl Friday to take-no-prisoners badass, but her Susan Cooper is also a fully realised, multi-layered portrait of a woman who has finally come to see her own worth.

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  • In addition to being hilariously funny, Paul Feig’s Spy is a brilliant feminist response to the James Bond genre. The opening scene, the exotic locales, the plot, the music, the character types, all evoke the Bonds which spawned a cycle of international bed-hopping suave heroes saving the world and the hinge-heeled beauties who crave him. This female spy turns all those male cliches into fresh female successes.
    The title works two ways. It obviously declares itself a spy film but more broadly addresses “the male gaze,” the theory that films assume a masculine perspective and make the female the object of their vision, not their own subject. As watchers we are the espyers, the spy, safely ogling the characters from our privileged privacy. When we watch Spy we are spying from the traditional male perspective — but here the advantage is given woman. Susan’s camera contact lens is an emblem of scopophilia.
    Melissa McCarthy’s Susan Cooper is not the genre’s usual woman. But her bulk does not deter her from intelligence, stamina, energy, imagination, effectiveness in physical battle, and even winning the desire of all the macho men in the film. Her ample bosom is not maternal but sexy. The men by reflex find reasons to grab and ogle it. In Bond’s world she’d be Boobs Galore. She’s no Modesty Blaise. The lecherous Aldo’s flirtatious routine expresses the emotional attraction both male spies discover for her. When she ends up in bed with the ridiculous Rick Ford, she confirms her right to the sexual liberty — even caprice — usually reserved for the male stars.
    Susan was inhibited in her early CIA career by male authority. Now she has a chance to fulfil herself, as she steps from directing spy Bradley Fine by audio remote control to flying into the field herself. She fights through every possible restriction. She even ploughs her borrowed motorcycle through a furrow of freshly poured concrete — as tough as surviving the CIA’s prejudice against women and the western culture’s narrow prescription of feminine beauty. Susan saves the world, saves her beloved Bradley, wins the career she always craved — but even in her post-victory her new undercover characters remain consigned to boring cliche.
    She’s also a woman with a voice — as independent, aggressive, witty, profane, as any man in that world. In fact her rapid-fire coarse wit evokes the Veep tv series (and its clear advantage over the stodgy old-fashioned Tomlin-Fonda warhorse on Netflix). The substantial wit of the plot is deepened and enhanced by the dialogue, which is off-the-wall, inventive, and always funny. That extends into the case histories chronicled behind the end-credits (stay for them).
    Susan’s blossoming from clerk to action hero contrasts to the other three woman. The CIA unit director is the familiar woman administrator, brusque, officious, eager to subordinate her women charges to the men’s needs. Susan’s colleague and best friend Nancy (a brutally deglamorized Miranda Hart) is a plain-Jane Miss Moneypenny, who under Susan’s example comes into her own, saving Susan’s life, killing a villain, and even seducing rapper Fifty Cent. That’s qualitatively more money than the money penny. The CIA’s dazzling perfect beauty spy proves as false as the genre’s feminine allure, proving herself a traitor. Our admiration and empathy are invested in the beauty that’s conventionally denied.
    The evil Rayna is as tough, heartless and dangerous as all the Bond master villains. She is as independent and foul-mouthed as Susan, as worthy an adversary as Dr. Noh and Goldfinger. Like the conventional heroine, Rayna runs for her life — tottering upon her silted heels. The CIA director, Nancy and Rayna have an image-consciousness that underscores Susan’s deeply inculcated — and reductive — humility.
    The male figures also undercut the genre convention. The Bond figure is suave Bradley Fine (Jude Law), a ladykiller brutally insensitive to Susan’s ardor for him — except to exploit it. As Rick Ford action star Jason Statham caricatures his persona, a macho, strutting, mysogynous “hero” who goes rogue to solve the case. Here he proves absolutely incompetent. Here this male action star plays the usual female bimbo. Susan saves both macho heroes and in turn is saved by Nancy.
    As Ford is a comic exposure of Fine, Susan exposes both. Thus the film exposes the traditional assumption that men command the proper authority and efficacy in solving the world’s problems. That assumption is our cultural bias and weakness not a reality.

  • Quickie Review:

    One of the finest spies of CIA is killed in the line of duty. Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) a CIA analyst must now abandon her desk job and go into the field. This unassuming spy’s mission: to infiltrate an arms dealing ring to prevent a global disaster. Spy is a surprisingly good action comedy. The movie does not just rely on the only comedian in the movie and is more of an ensemble effort. Spy spoofs the spy genre without becoming a joke itself, but this also means that the originality in this movie is severely lacking. Nevertheless, Spy is an entertaining film with consistent stream of laughs. As a bonus, Jason Statham was incredible in his comedic role.

    Full Review:

    I really was not looking forward to Spy. Melissa McCarthy was hilarious in Bridesmaids, but every movie after that was McCarthy becoming more and more extreme version of that character. Tammy was the peak of annoying comedy, it was getting tiring. However, in Spy McCarthy holds back on the zany weirdness and it works.

    When looking at the premise, it’s easy to think “oh this movie is just going to be a collection of scenes where McCarthy’s character fumbles into success.” Quite the contrary, she is actually competent at her job. Yea sure for the physical action she is limited, but she holds her own even against intimidating foes. What I’m trying to say is that she is not like Austin Powers who depends on dumb luck to beat the bad guy. She is constantly underestimated, so when she exudes confidence that’s when McCarthy is at her best because so many times she would retort with actions or insults that were such good burns that you can’t help it but laugh. Rest of the cast were also comedically on point. Rose Byrne continues to show she fits well in comedies even after Bridesmaids and Neighbors. I want to see her more in these types of roles (I’m not just saying that because I have a celebrity crush on her). The undeniable show stealer was Jason Statham. His numerous, endless monologues about how great he is were hilarious! It’s great to see him poke fun at his own image in action movies. It’s completely unexpected (the trailer only gave a snippet) but every time Statham started one of his stories, everyone in the cinema started to laugh.

    There are some tired out jokes in the movie though. Like I mentioned, McCarthy’s character is constantly put down for her weight or appearance. So the jokes about her weight and lack of experience start to get a little old. Luckily like I mentioned she does quip back in a funny way each time, but lessening the fat jokes would’ve been better. Spy, is a spoof of all spy movies ever made. With that comes all the overused plot points and twists that won’t surprise you at all. On spy parody scale of Austin Powers to Kingsman, Spy lies somewhere in between. So a lot of the parody is done with very safe jokes, in that sense Spy doesn’t offer anything new or fresh. As a result the movie does come off very generic.

    That being said, Spy is a comedy after all. So all it needed to do was to get us to laugh, and it did achieve its goal. You don’t need to be concerned of McCarthy wackiness from Tammy. This was an ensemble effort where the movie depended on everyone in the cast to deliver the jokes. Spy is a surprisingly entertaining film that will hit you on the funny bone.

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  • This movie, Spy, would have been a lot funnier if they had explained some things. As the movie plot unrolled I kept feeling I had missed some important exposition because things were happening that even the characters were wondering how they were happening. I just got the feeling that the film makers might have cut information to get to the funny/action/whatever parts. If they didn’t cut the exposition then there’s something wrong with this movie on a much more basic level.
    Once again the director and writer are the same person, Paul Feig. I can’t help but wonder how much of this movie never made it out of Feig’s mind. There must be a logical reason for a mouse to roar and in this story there isn’t. The main character is an accomplished fighter, marksman, and driver of both cars and motorcycles but we are to believe that, with these skills, she was kept back in the office and left with the job of a handler which she is also expert at doing. A good movie must be built from a good story and in Spy’s case it was left with very large logic holes. Feig does a nice job as a director but it can’t make up for the missing information.
    Jude Law is Bradley Fine, a 007 type spy who is connected to his handler for the information he needs to accomplish is job. He is fine in this part but it’s all pretty straight forward, James Bond, all James Bond, and nothing but James Bond. Melissa McCarthy plays his handler, Susan Cooper. She is an agent and has had training but she sits in front of computer screens with impossible amounts of information that she can deliver to Fine and thus save his life. McCarthy does a nice job of playing the moment and she is very funny but too many of the moments aren’t linked as a logical result of something that has happened such as expert behavior that out shines everybody else although she’s thought to be a mouse. You can see the premise but it is not fulfilled in a way to make the contrasting actions and behavior logical. I spent too much time mystified even as I enjoyed her performance.
    Miranda Hart does a wonderful job with her character, Nancy. There’s no missing information for her and she plays it well. Allison Janney also does a very nice job as the officious Elaine Crocker. Rose Byrne is great as she slides from above everyone else to ready to kill them all. Bobby Cannavale is a villain from the very first time we see him but there is serious question as how and why Jason Statham’s character, Rick Ford, managed to become and stay an agent. It is fun, however, to see Statham play broad comedy.
    I give this movie 2 cakes out of 4. It’s disjointed and left me wanting explanations for too much of the action.

  • (Rating: ☆☆☆ out of 4)

    This film is recommended.

    In brief: Thanks to Melissa McCarthy and a talented cast, this spy spoof is not left out in the cold.

    GRADE: B  

    Everyone needs a good laugh once in a while and the new comedy, Spy, does deliver a good many laughs, thanks to Melissa McCarthy and a cast that is willing to send up their own screen personas. Well directed and cleverly written by Paul Feig, the film immediately sets the right mood with its James Bond-ish movie credits even before it establishes our low self-esteemed heroine, one misfit named Susan Cooper. Spy shrewdly uses any moviegoer’s film knowledge of these super agent espionage thrillers to maximum effect from its opening shoot-out to its world globe-trotting to exotic destinations of intrigue. Although it tends to overdo the action scenes and contrived plot to sacrifice some of its humor, the basic premise works so well.

    A loyal but “invisible” Cooper (Ms. McCarthy) ends up ditching her desk job as Agent Bradley Fine’s Miss Moneypenny and goes on assignment to trail a diabolical mastermind, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Bryne), before she can sell a nuclear bomb to the highest bidder. Cooper takes on many disguises, none of which are too flattering, but her guile and quick responses with her on-the-job training keep her busy, even if she is constantly interrupted by an arrogant and bumbling co-hort, Rick Ford (Jason Statham).

    Credit Mr. Feig with a ingenious gimmick. It is delightful seeing the suave Jude Law (as Fine) playing against character and double pleasure also seeing Statham hamming up the extremes of her deluded character. He assembled a solid ensemble who bring their comedic talents to the film: Miranda Hart as Susan’s girl-pal, Peter Serafinnowicz as a slick oversexed Lothario, an uncredited Allison Janney as her no-nonsense boss, and Bobby Cannavale as the crazed criminal. Other actors seem underused and their characters should have been given more screen time: Morena Baccarin, Zach Wood, Michael McDonald, and Björn Gustafsson, much potential wasted.

    Blame Mr. Feig for less than deft handling of the spy action. If the director/ writer would have concentrated more on the comedy and less on the espionage angle, the film would have been a classic comedy to be long remembered. The film seems to take a sadistic glee in its use of close-ups including gunplay, stabbings and slo-mo blood splatter. Its many glorified chases and its non-stop gratuitous violence disrupts the hi-jinks as the body count rises. For this reason, Spy settles for being is a diverting comedy trifle that can readily be enjoyed and somewhat forgotten.

    One conspicuous misstep is that aforementioned extreme violence which undercuts the comedy too often, sending the audience one step closer to reality and two paces further back from the farce. But Feig knows how to set up the jokes although sometimes the gags are lame (like the 50 Cent’s cameo) or missed opportunities (like the little-used spy gadgetry). Add to that fact that logic defies any reality in this movie, particularly Cooper’s physical agility. But logic escapes the escapades in this genre of spy films anyway. So, just sit back and revel in its silliness.

    But it is the chemistry between the immeasurably likable Ms. McCarthy and a trio of actors (Law, Bryne, and Statham) who improve on the already funny screenplay. McCarthy has played this type of wise-cracking schmo many times and she excels in her comic timing and slapstick. Especially strong is the banter between the over-styled bouffant baddie, a wry Ms. Bryne, and the determined-to-succeed Susan Cooper.

    All in all, Spy achieves its impossible mission: to make one laugh and be thoroughly entertained.

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  • With hilarious Melissa McCarthy comedies like Bridesmaids and The Heat, I had much confidence in this film, especially upon watching the trailer with Jude Law’s character accidentally shooting a terrorist after sneezing. Unfortunately, my expectations sadly fell short. There is no denying that there were some funny scenes with Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne, but not very many.

    The chemistry between these two felt rather weak and ineffective. The humor and dialogue is in this film is a bit stale, and the problem is that this movie tries to be funny by constantly using non-stop expletives without adding any real humor to them, and it just doesn’t work. Characters using vulgar sex humor is not problem as long as they make them in a way that is funny. Sadly, the film fails to accomplish this, the characters just swear in a way that serves no purpose. Jason Statham doesn’t even manage to be funny in this either. Don’t get wrong, there is some shades of humor here and there, but enough to make it satisfying.

    Spy is not what I would describe as a bad movie, but rather a movie that wasted lots of potential on a poorly written script. Melissa McCarthy may enjoy this, some will not. There were a few scenes that had me laughing, but overall, I was quite disappointed in this.

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