Because the films Hollywood has been churning out lately have been so dull, boring, lackluster, mediocre, and all other forms of uninspired, I have come to dread searching for something to review. Whereas television continues to offer a plethora of good viewing, the silver screen has become severely tarnished from the lack of showing anything worthwhile. Thus I was not optimistic as I perused the local cinema listings for a film that wouldn’t be too painful to watch.
After reading through the choices several times, I finally based my decision on the length of the film’s title. My rationalization for this was the hope that if the movie did not have a long name, it therefore may have a short running time. And so this week’s movie is “Spy,” an action comedy starring Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, and Jason Statham. Now it’s time for the bad news and good news. The bad news is that the film lasts longer than 20 minutes, but the good news is that it’s highly entertaining from start to finish, and McCarthy has succeeded in creating a character I hope we see again in a series of movies.
McCarthy portrays Susan Cooper, a CIA agent who works at a desk directing the field operations of Agent Bradley Fine (Law), who is in Bulgaria searching for a nuclear bomb in a suitcase. Susan maintains contact with her partner through the earpiece he is wearing and by observing him on a computer screen. Unfortunately Susan watches Fine botch the operation, and she’s in the process of bringing him back to the United States when the agency discovers that Rayna Boyanov (Byrne), the daughter of the guy who is supposed to have the bomb, may know where her father has hidden it.
Instead of bringing Fine back, Susan redirects him to Rayna’s home, where she hopes he will find the bomb. But things go badly there, and Rayna apparently ends up killing Fine. The death of a top agent throws the agency into turmoil, and after Fine’s funeral, head honcho Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) must find a replacement for him. Much to Elaine’s surprise, Susan volunteers for the position, and after initially rejecting the idea, Elaine ultimately relents and sends Susan to Paris, where her assignment is to surveil a guy named Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale), a friend of Rayna’s. In the meantime, Rick Ford (Statham), the other top agent in addition to Fine, is so upset by Susan’s new assignment that he resigns and turns rogue.
From this point on the plot becomes much too involved to discuss here. Let’s just say that it becomes a surprise-filled romp through Paris, Rome, and Budapest as Susan attempts find that elusive bomb.
From the time “Spy,” begins until the closing credits roll, there’s really never a dull moment in this delightful blend of action, adventure, mystery, drama, and comedy. We have gun battles, car chases, hand-to-hand combat, and plot twists galore. This is the best fun movie of the summer so far, and the main reason is McCarthy’s marvelous portrayal of a very unlikely female James Bond. In an online interview with HollywoodChicago.com, “Spy” writer and director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) spoke about the Bond influence, and he also explained what he likes about McCarthy.
“I love the classic James Bond films, and I’m a big Ian Fleming fan. I have a real love of the genre. I felt ‘Spy’ was a good way to mash them up. The biggest inspiration for me was ‘Casino Royale,’ the Daniel Craig version. To me, that’s the perfect execution of a spy movie. There was less of the gadgets and humor of the Roger Moore era of James Bond. That’s the tone I wanted. Some people are calling it a spoof, but it’s more like a funny spy movie. So the tone became more realistic, with no part in which you might think it’s a dumb cartoon. These are just very extreme personalities.
“To me, she (McCarthy) is like an ‘every person,’ and I really love the underdogs of the world. Everything I write is about the persons you’d never notice if you were walking down the street because I think they have the best stories. Plus so many of us feel like that person in real life. Melissa is an unassuming, relatable person who is just trying to get through life. I feel that audiences are immediately with her.
“The Melissa in real life is totally different than the balls-out characters I create for her in my films. I wanted to give her a different shade in ‘Spy,’ and I also wanted to show what is funny about her, a nice person put into extraordinary circumstances.”
McCarthy really seems to revel in the part of Susan Cooper. Until the opportunity to go into the field arises, she has spent her time in the CIA in the obscurity of a desk job, but now she has the chance to realize the dream of what she thought being an agent would involve contrary to what her mother used to tell her. At one point she reveals to a friend that her mother used to tape the following message to her lunch box: “Give up on your dreams, Susan.”
McCarthy also shows a real flair for the action scenes, and there are plenty of them in this film. She has a chance to show of some very cool martial arts moves, and one fight scene in a kitchen is among the best of its kind that I’ve ever seen. Additionally, McCarthy works beautifully with her three costars, all of whom turn in wonderful performances. In the film’s production notes, Law commented on his character’s relationship with Susan.
“As far as Fine is concerned, he and Susan are the perfect team, unflappable, the cream of the crop in the CIA. He sees the relationship as purely platonic, despite the occasional flirtations. Certain elements of that she may misread or perhaps hope will develop into something more. He doesn’t imagine that she has any real desire to leave the basement, but you could argue that he wants Susan to remain there because without her he might be lost.”
For right now “Spy” reigns supreme as the most “fun” movie of the summer, but please note that it’s rated R because the F Bomb usage is copious throughout it. Those who are offended by hearing it should just stay away. I found the entire film funny and refreshing, and it therefore receives the final score of an unexpectedly superior eight. And I definitely want more of Susan, but if she appears in future films, she must have someone ask her for her name so she can reply, “Cooper. Susan Cooper.”