I like a good spy movie; but The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t a great spy movie. It is however a decent comedy exploring the dynamics of female bonding, and that makes it worth seeing.
Director Susanna Fogel and her writing partner David Iserson have crafted a rollicking tale that taps into (without ever subverting) the tropes of the spy genre. But it soon becomes apparent that the spy stuff is largely a sideline. Their real purpose is to examine issues of empowerment; which prove to be far more interesting.
Audrey (Mila Kunis) is a woman stuck in a dead-end job. Her outlets however are her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) and her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux). But when Drew dumps her – by text! – Audrey falls into something of a funk. That is until Drew shows up at her apartment with a posse of murderous thugs on his tail. Seems Drew is a CIA operative, and his work has made him a target. Cornered, Drew tells Audrey she needs to go to Vienna and meet a contact to hand over an innocuous-looking trophy – which of course hides something far more important. Audrey and Morgan escape and, without really thinking it through, fly to Austria. But the spy game isn’t for amateurs, and the women soon finds themselves out of their depth. In desperation, Audrey turns to hunky MI5 agent Sebastian (Sam Heughan) who has shown up at the “drop” in Vienna. But can he really be trusted?
The plot is simplicity itself. You can sum it up as “there’s a box; everybody wants the box”. But what distinguishes The Spy Who Dumped Me is the fact that Fogel uses that basic structure to delve into some more interesting themes. There’s a definite feminist slant to the film, which veers it away from the machismo of say the Bond movies.
For me, it started slowly. About 10 minutes in, I was a bit bewildered. But the movie grew on me, to the point where I cared about these characters and what was going to happen to them. What also grows is just how funny it is. Again, it took a while to get used to the sometimes oblique humour, but once I did, I enjoyed the film a lot more. It’s also pretty full-on in places, as its MA rating suggests.
The Spy Who Dumped Me really succeeds as well as it does due to the central performances of Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. They both bring a real energy to their roles and they’re completely believable as best friends. McKinnon tends to be the more outrageous of the two as Morgan. Her character is someone who acts without really thinking, and McKinnon brings that across. Kunis often has to play the straight woman to McKinnon, but steps up in the film’s action sequences. Sam Heughan (Outlander) provides eye candy as Sebastian. Gillian Anderson (The Viceroy’s House) makes a surprise appearance; while Ivanna Sakhno (Pacific Rim: Uprising) does a fine job as an assassin.
As spy parodies go, The Spy Who Dumped Me is one of the better ones. I mean, it’s no The Pink Panther, but it’s a hell of a lot better than most. If you go in not expecting a Jason Bourne-style thriller, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.