Review: Spy

The spy film genre is sharply mocked in Paul Feig’s latest film. reviews

★★★☆☆

Director: Paul Feig
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Miranda Hart, Jude Law
Running time: 120 minutes

Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper. Image: 20th Century Fox

Spy is the latest work of writer/director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Office). The plot of an underrated character turning out to be good at her job is rather predictable, but Feig’s entertaining direction and the cast’s spirited performance carry the film to an enjoyable conclusion. It is only spoilt by so many uses of the f-word that even Mrs Brown would start to question the point.

The film begins with a very funny spoof of the usual James Bond-style spy movie format, with suave agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) infiltrating a criminal’s party, before accidently shooting the suspect without gaining vital information. Desk-bound CIA operative Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) guides Fine through his missions, but when it goes wrong Cooper is determined to step into Fine’s shoes and stop the sale of a nuclear weapon.

So far, it all sounds rather serious. However, Cooper is forced to take on various unflattering identities, including the obligatory singleton with 10 cats. While this is unsophisticated comedy, McCarthy performs with such gusto it hardly seems to matter. Later in the film, the trivialisation of the character contrasts well with Cooper’s determination to stop the criminals. The change reveals a deeper level to the script, which succeeds in demonstrating that there are laughs to be found in a leading lady without the needing to mock or belittle the character.

Miranda Hart (Miranda, Call the Midwife) efficiently raises the comedy levels as Cooper’s best friend. Whilst I am not her biggest fan, Hart easily fits in with the more experienced Hollywood actors and lends a charming element to the film. The only bizarre point is that Hart speaks in her usual British accent, yet the script was clearly unaltered to fit with her casting; she uses many American expressions that jar with her accent.

Also, Hart’s character is one of the few that doesn’t say ‘fuck’ at some point. Now, it isn’t prudishness that prompts me to criticise the film for its excessive use of bad language. I simply did not see the point of having every second sentence containing a swear word. By the five hundredth time, ‘let’s get the fuck out’ loses any comedic potential, if it was ever there in the first place. It had no purpose except, presumably, to show how modern/edgy the writer was, which is sad because it spoils what is actually a pretty decent film. There is some mild gory violence, similar to a Bond film, that works for the plot, but the film could have been much more accessible if the swearing was cut down slightly; the film’s 15 rating is mainly due to the language issue.

Feig’s latest work isn’t the greatest film that’s ever been made and I doubt it will become a “modern classic”. From the opening 10 minutes you can predict entirely how the plot with fan out. Nevertheless, for an engaging two hours that will make you laugh (sometimes despite yourself) it’s well worth the admission fee; I’d just advice leaving more sensitive viewers at home with a DVD.


To book tickets to see Spy at York City Screen Picturehouse, go here

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