Melissa McCarthy tackles one of the best roles of her life in this hilarious homage to James Bond.
Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is an overweight, unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst and the unsung hero behind the Agency’s most dangerous missions. But when her super smooth partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law) falls off the grid and another top field agent Jason Statham is compromised, she volunteers to go deep undercover. So, it is that she is sent by her no-nonsense boss Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer and prevent a global disaster.
Teaming with McCarthy for the third time, following Bridesmaids and The Heat, writer-director Paul Feig adds action to their trademark comedy and sets the story in gorgeous European locales. Spy was shot primarily in Budapest, Hungary, which also doubles for Rome and Paris. Feig is a big fan of spy movies and wanted to create a broad action comedy in that genre. He doesn’t regard Spy as a spoof or satire. He wanted the picture to have the tone of a spy film but still be as funny as they could make it.
McCarthy’s casting works because she can play the so called “every person” and elicit support and empathy. Her comic timing is perfectly suited to the role. She is a force of nature that dominates and dictates the terms.
In developing a palette for the film, Feig, along with director of photography Robert Yeoman and production designer Jefferson Sage, were inspired by the 007 movies. From the opening credits, which are reminiscent of earlier James Bond films, to the sweeping shots and striking backdrops, not to forget the strong action sequences, they have nailed it.
In the film, Susan has a deeply protective best friend and colleague, Nancy (Miranda Hart), who sees through her infatuation with Fine. She blames him for stifling Susan’s career advancement and toying with her emotions.
Hart’s character is tall, geeky and clumsy. As Hart puts it, they “are two fish out of water, in the same empty fishbowl.”
Among the many strong characters in the film is the bad girl role played by Rose Byrne, whose comic turns have been a revelation and so it is here. She plays a snobbish international woman of intrigue, Rayna Boyanov. Beautiful, privileged, with hair so big it should have its own postcode. The wealthy, Oxford-educated daughter of a recently deceased arms dealer, Rayna has come into possession of an unusual inheritance: a small tactical nuclear weapon. Enough to destroy a city – but not a state. No need to be rudely excessive. Rayna wears garish outfits for grand entrances into the finest hotels. Perpetually bored and unimpressed, she lacks a sense of humor and has a brutally direct manner of speaking.
Rose Byrne, who worked with McCarthy on Bridesmaids, says her character is all about status. Despite her coldness, Rayna feels slightly sympathetic and curious about Susan Cooper, who reminds her of a “sad Bulgarian clown”.
Also featured are Bryne’s real-life love interest Bobby Cannavale, as her well-heeled criminal companion; and the rapper 50 Cent. Another stand out in Spy is Peter Serafinowicz as a questionable Continental Casanova. His droll sense of humour works a treat.
Spy is one of the funniest movies of the year. We’re talking the stuff that made Bridesmaids and The Hangover such audience favourites. It sizzles and sparkles with scene after scene of rip ticklingly funny entertainment mixed with full on action and surprises. Just be warned that the language coming from the mouths of McCarthy and Byrne is often blue as they stand toe to toe and go “whack”.
Rated MA, Spy is a beauty and scores an 8½ out of 10.
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Miranda Hart and Jude Law
Releasing in cinemas: 21 May 2015
Rated MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television