Directed by Paul Feig
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Alison Janney, Peter Serafinowicz
There are fewer sights as exuberant as Melissa McCarthy on a roll. And that includes her rolling.
The actress who shot to instant limelight with Feig’s The Bridesmaids — despite being the fourth wheel — is again at her swearing, fighting, kicking best here, letting it all hang out as a CIA desk person who finds herself out in the field. That field includes the breadth of Europe, from Paris and Rome all the way to Bulgaria and Hungary, and also stars an adventurous chartered plane ride.
One can see the comic and action potential there, and Feig, who also wrote the script, obviously saw that too. However, Spy goes a step further and deeper to send up the spy film genre as well as bring in an unsaid kindred sisterhood that’s now the hallmark of his films. Here the CIA deputy director (Janney) is a woman, as well as the main villain, Rayna (Byrne), whom Susan is tracking, with the help of CIA friend Nancy (Hart). However, by the end of what could be the start of a franchise, Susan and Rayna exchange a smile so full of understanding that it’s a wonder the men didn’t anticipate what befells them.
While Feig had earlier too featured McCarthy in a comic-action role, with Sandra Bullock in The Heat, that woman cop-buddy film was more predictable in playing up the differences of its characters. Here, if you look deep enough, the women are dissimilar but caught up in quite similiar situations.
Susan has been a CIA desk hand for a while, and has an obvious crush on the James Bond-like Agent, Fine (Law), whom she is paired with on missions. She guides him through all the blind spots, and he gets all the limelight, knowing all along how she feels about him. Nancy is another desk hand, whose one qualification at work appears to be her ability to tell that the CIA headquarters is vermin-infested.
When Fine gets shot by Rayna, Susan volunteers to go into the field to bring her in. There is a nuke bomb in the picture but, like always, one needn’t be too concerned about it.
She is trailed throughout her mission by the persistent Ford (Statham), who had quit the CIA earlier on not being allowed to follow Rayna himself.
Statham is delightful as he spoofs his own action roles talking about how indestructible he is (including swapping one sawed-off arm for another, and still having two to go around). Susan is impressed, and then takes down Ford in one hilarious speech.
All the actors are good in what they are supposed to be here, including Law in his high-flying Agent role, Hart as the self-effacing Nancy, and particularly Byrne as a Bulgarian heiress with the mile-high hairdos, bronzed look and a stick-thin frame. There is something particularly pathetic and soulful about Rayna, and nothing she shows up in, including the private jet, lets you forget that.
Nargis Fakhri gets to kick around, but Feig thankfully doesn’t let her get a dialogue in.
The film could have done with sharper editing, shorter length, and lesser blood, some of which spills over from satire to farce.
But you should probably still see it to watch McCarthy hop on to an improvised scooter, topple down with it, and get up swearing, “Who gives the scooter a roof? Are you the Pope?”
You may have always wondered why that particular topple doesn’t happen more often. Now you have seen it.