Directed and Written by Paul Feig
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Peter Serafinowicz, Morena Baccarin, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart
The trailer for Spy – a Paul Feig directed movie about an under-appreciated and underestimated CIA analyst as played by Melissa McCarthy – leaves you expecting another high comedy romp with McCarthy as the leading fool. Delightfully and quite unexpectedly, Spy is more thoughtful than that and gives McCarthy a chance to flaunt her badass side as the characters around her play it over-the-top. The result is a smart and funny spy movie parody with an empowering message.
The film starts out like any other James Bond movie, with the suave and sexy secret agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) infiltrating the lair of a stock villain who has hidden away a nuclear bomb. Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is the brains of the operation, guiding Fine’s movements and giving tactical advice from her computer at Langley. They make a good team, and Susan is obviously enamored with Fine, but Fine is predictably thoughtless and oblivious. Susan feels useless and under-appreciated until the identities of all active field agents are leaked to the enemy and she volunteers to undertake the mission. It turns out that Susan is an excellent field agent – brave, skilled, logical, smart, and innovative – but that she was sidelined by Fine who selfishly saw her potential as an analyst for his own missions. While Susan is impeded by the incompetence of her fellow agents, her determination grows as she gains confidence in herself, and finally gaining the respect of her peers when she finally comes to respect herself.
Paul Feig clearly knows his genres. The opening of the movie reads as a parody, but so smoothly and subtly that you’d almost be willing to buy it as a slightly campy spy film. Jude Law is the perfect choice to play the very-fine-indeed secret agent Bradley Fine, full of over-confidence, swagger, and charm. McCarthy, who is often cast in a more crass, over-the-top role, is beautifully understated and smartly sexy as the completely realistic Susan Cooper. Susan’s story reflects what so many professional women experience in a male dominated workforce, often underestimated and overlooked, or else their talents commandeered to improve the career of their male co-workers. Jason Statham as the hardcore, inept, and overblown secret agent Rick Ford unexpectedly provides the bulk of slapstick humor, often charging into situations half-cocked and bumbling his way through the movie. His unlikely claims of insane events in his spy career aren’t that far removed from some of the over-the-top action movies for which Statham is known. Peter Serafinowicz also puts in a dynamic performance as McCarthy’s grabby Italian liason Aldo, who may be more than he first appears.
In the end, Spy was much more than what I was expecting and in all the best ways. I hope to see McCarthy explore further roles of more subtly and dramatic potential. I was not a particular fan until Spy and now I’m looking forward to the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot even more.