by Sam Robinson
Rated MA15+. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne. Directed by Paul Feig.
Spy thrillers have captivated us for many years. The James Bond franchise just keeps getting bigger and better, and has spawned a vast number of spoof films, the most notable being the Austin Powers trilogy.
Now, in slides Spy. Part action, part comedy, part spoof. The film focusses on CIA agent Susan Cooper (McCarthy), working behind a computer in a vermin-infested operations office in London. She works to be extra eyes and ears for agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) – but when he falls off the grid, Cooper must step up and go undercover to chase down the sinister Rayna Boyanov (Byrne).
The problem is that Cooper is inexperienced, bumbling and struggles to stay on task. This results in some hilarious moments – many of them slapstick – and you really do wonder exactly how successful she could possibly be in the field.
It’s clear that director Paul Feig is having a great time with Spy. This is his third film with McCarthy, following Bridesmaids and The Heat, and probably his best yet. Ridiculously manic, thrilling and oddball, Feig proves that he has the chops to take on next year’s all-female Ghostbusters reboot (which too will star McCarthy). I found myself laughing out loud time and time again – which I rarely do!
While Melissa McCarthy has wonderful comedic skill, the real star of Spy is Jason Statham who plays a weathered, experienced agent with a constant bee in his bonnet. Statham has this incredible comedic timing – drifting in and out of scenes, describing all these ridiculous scenarios he’s experienced as an agent. Also excellent is Miranda Hart (from TV’s Miranda) who plays Cooper’s dorky co-worker. Her performance of a vanilla character is hilarious – and wait until you see her share scenes with 50 Cent playing himself. Yes, that happens.
For all the positives, Spy is unnecessarily crude, which really let it down for me. Some jokes are pushed too far, and coarse language flies thick and fast, particularly as Cooper finds her feet. Feig also opts for some violent scenes – and while some choreography is incredible (see kitchen fight scene) – he adopts Tarantino-style graphic blood spatter. This had many in the cinema with me squirming.
Spy, like many other spy films, has a strong focus on the theme of identity. As Cooper switches wigs and costumes she’s actually shifting identities (including that of a cat lady). But deeper than her external changes, internally she wants to change too. She’s deeply dissatisfied with her job and her loser status amongst her peers. Cooper dreams of breaking free from sitting behind a computer and being assaulted by bats.
We can find ourselves wishing we were in a greater place than the one we’re in now. It’s easy to compare yourself to those around you – I do it all the time. But for those who trust in Jesus, we are given the greatest identity of all. Our identity is in Christ. Colossians 3:3-4:
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
These verses describe us being completely united to Jesus in his death and resurrection. Where he goes, we go. Jesus has been raised from death and one day we will be too. Our identity is with him. This doesn’t mean that things won’t be hard here on earth, or dull from time to time, but Jesus gives us a new identity, a new hope, and a reason to rejoice when life feels hard.
Spy is an action-comedy with smarts and great performances, but is let down by vulgarity. I’m giving it three-and-a-quarter stars out of five.
Spy will release in cinemas in Australia on May 21st, and in the US and UK on June 5th.