Directed by: Paul Feig.
Written by: Paul Feig.
Starring: Melissa McCarthy (Susan Cooper), Rose Byrne (Rayna Boyanov), Jason Statham (Rick Ford), Jude Law (Bradley Fine), Miranda Hart (Nancy B. Artingstall), Allison Janney (Elaine Crocker), Morena Baccarin (Karen Walker), Bobby Cannavale (Sergio De Luca), Michael McDonald (Patrick), Peter Serafinowicz (Aldo), Björn Gustafsson (Anton).
Melissa McCarthy is never not funny. Even when she’s in dreck like Identity Thief, she has a few moments when she breaks free of the material for a few moments and gets some laughs. Spy is not dreck like Identity Thief – in fact, it’s one of McCarthy’s best films to date. Director Paul Feig – making his third film with McCarthy following Bridesmaids and The Heat – gets McCarthy, and knows she works best when he lets her off the leash – and lets her riff. What works best about Spy is that freedom seems to have extended to the supporting cast as well, who follow McCarthy’s lead, and seem more relaxed and free flowing. The price of this freedom is that often the movies lack some focus and structure – and tend to run a little too long. At two hours, Spy is too long – and it begins to run out of steam down the homestretch. But at its best, it is one of the funniest films of the year so far.
In the film, McCarthy stars as Susan Cooper – a CIA agent, who is stuck in a basement at Langley, helping a real spy, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), do his job. But then some bad things happen – Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) gets her hands on a suitcase nuke, and is willing to sell it to the highest bidder. She also knows the identity of all of the CIAs field agents, meaning they need someone completely new to go into the field. So, of course, they call in Susan – who heads off to Paris, and then other exotic locales, to try and stop the sale.
There are a lot of wonderful supporting characters in the field – none better than Rose Byrne, who continues to be the funniest woman in mainstream comedies not named Melissa McCarthy. She has a wall of hair, a ridiculous accent, and is seemingly willing to do anything to get a laugh –and gets a lot of them. Jason Statham is surprisingly good as one of the CIA Agent’s whose cover has been blown, but refuses to stop anyway. Statham plays it straight, which makes every ridiculous thing he says even funnier – especially coming from him, who has done most of the stuff his character claims in other movies. The best surprise in the supporting cast has to be Miranda Hart, as Susan’s best friend, and fellow basement dweller – who steals many of her scenes.
The movie belongs to McCarthy though – who, like in the past, grabs hold of the movie and will not let go. She is great in the early scenes as the meek, shy woman hiding her violent inner self –and perhaps even better later, when she lets that side out. The movie is basically a non-stop stream of jokes for McCarthy – and the average of those that work compared to those that do not is surprisingly high.
The film itself is not as good as McCarthy or Byrne, or the rest of the supporting cast, but its pretty close. Feig doesn’t shy away from violence in the film – it’s surprisingly gruesome at times, which is at odds with the comedic tone, but somehow works for the most part. The violence works best in short bursts however – the finale drabs on a little too long, and gets us away from the comedy, but it’s a small complaint.
Spy comes the closest of any movie to using McCarthy’s talents to their fullest potential – but I still don’t think it matches them. McCarthy is a talented, and versatile actress – just see her work on Gilmore Girls or in the under seen The Nines for proof. Spy lets us see a few different facets of what she can do – but still stays in her comfort zone. It’s clearly the movie her fans want – and it is hilarious. Still though, I would like to see a movie that truly lives up to her talent.