‘Spy’ delightful from start to finish
It’s not just Melissa McCarthy flinging herself around, somehow pulling off acting both competent and severely ill-equipped simultaneously. It’s not just her perfectly timed comedic antics, ranging from the physical to the situational. It’s not just a well-chosen supporting cast and a script worthy of praise. It’s the fact that “Spy,” somehow, manages to possess all of these stellar traits and hits its mark in this perfectly pitched farce of a spy drama.
In effect, when Daniel Craig feels he’s doesn’t want to be James Bond anymore, we have his successor ready to go, donned in her “I’m a sad cat woman” outfit and all.
Directed by Paul Feig of “Bridesmaids” fame (read that review here), “Spy” takes a simple enough premise — a rookie secret agent finds herself trying to save the world from nefarious ne’er-do-wells — and runs hysterically wild with it. From bloody start to satisfying to finish, “Spy” leaves no corner of the typical spy genre unassailed.
It kicks off with its variation of a Bond opening theme song (a sultry “Who Can You Trust” by Ivy Levan) while introducing us to our hero, Susan Cooper (a brilliantly casted McCarthy), and her crazy, ego-driven colleagues. A CIA analyst skilled far beyond her current desk job, Coop suffers from a misplaced lack of self-esteem, choosing (perhaps reluctantly) to serve as the eyes and ears of field agents rather than living the high life herself. (Her main charge, Bradley Fine, played by an deliciously absurdist Jude Law, is only the first of many characters who feel far more than entitled — and equally incompetent — than they should simply because of they possess a Y chromosome.)
Coop, however, quickly places herself in the middle of the fray after sensitive information regarding the identities of the other agents is leaked. And though it took some convincing on her part (her aptitude tests were phenomenal, though perhaps showing of a dangerously aggressive nature), Coop convinces her superior, Elaine Crocker (a straight-faced, no-nonsense Allison Janney), that’s she capable of the job of saving the world.
From what, you ask? A pocket nuke, of course, that falls into the hands of well-financed terrorists, led by a particularly hilarious Rose Byrne as Raina Boyanov, an offensively obnoxious villain with award-winning hair. (It’s a surprise she never hides anything in those massive creations.) it’s her devious machinations that force Coop to jet-set across Europe, with a stop first in Paris, to prevent the sale of the device in Raina’s possession. To help aid Coop are her best friend and intelligence support back in the States, Nancy B. Artingstall (Miranda Hart); and testosterone-crazed Rick Ford (a surprisingly entertaining Jason Statham), who proves more a hinderance after going rogue because, honestly, how could a woman ever be a spy, right?
But Coop won’t be deterred by murderous terrorists or crazy coworkers — or even the terrible aliases she’s continually given to help her blend in while abroad. Which proves to a running theme in director Feig’s humorous film: Without beating you over the head, it’s made clear that women are the heroes here. The women run the joint and save the world and even serve as the primary villain; the men, however, basically puff their chests and expect praise and a better pay check because of it. It’s refreshing without being overbearing or preachy, a simple acknowledgement that they can do all these things, even joke about porn.
In the end, “Spy” is a well-written, perfectly casted comedic takedown of the tradition cloak-and-dagger spy film. Even the choreographed fight scenes are spot on. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the film ends with a sequel in mind, and that’s absolutely OK. Seeing Coop take on the world would be worth every penny spent, even minute watched. Because, if nothing else, we’re learning some necessary lessons along the way, like the value of a frying pan in a knife fight.
Five “Really, a divorced housewife from Iowa?” stars out of five, and a critic’s pick.