Skyfall wasn’t just responsible for elevating James Bond back to the top of the Hollywood totem pole. It can also take credit for doing the same for spy movies in general and this year there seems a bit of a resurgence in the genre. We’ve already seen Kingsman and later in the year we will have The Man From U.N.C.L.E. In the here and now we have Spy, from future Ghostbusters director Paul Feig.
Set within the CIA, we follow Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy), who works down in the basement guiding her partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law) through a variety of dangerous missions, with the help of a computer and a microphone. However, when the field agents are compromised she volunteers to take to the field herself, in search of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) who is attempting to sell a nuclear bomb.
The truth is that a hell of a lot more than that is going on in this film. However, the plot is just a bit of a mess. Characters jump in and out and there are certain people who you are never entirely sure of the significance of. The basic plot line is simple enough, but all the window dressing that surrounds it is far too convoluted for its own good and even the simplest study quickly unravels it. This also leads to be it being around 20 minutes too long. This kind of film is made to be around an hour and a half and two hours is just a bit too much.
Despite these problems, it’s actually really funny. Feig writes joke that have many things in common with the standard Hollywood comedy fare. They have slapstick, gross out moments and that wacky humour that is all so popular. However, they also tend to be just that bit more intelligent than the rest of it and it shows in this film. Melissa McCarthy stars as a female lead who actually has a story arc. She goes from the shy bumbling office worker to a kick ass agent throughout this film and it always feels believable. Plus, when giving a script that aids rather than hinders her, she is just damn good. She is a brilliant physical comedian and she consistently delivers the laughs in this film.
Despite that, she actually ends up coming second best in the comedy stakes. Because against many people’s expectations, although I think a look at his back catalogue makes it less surprising, the star of the show here is Jason Statham. The Stath has always come across as a smart man who realises what his role is and here he takes that standard role and ramps it up to eleven before running away with it. This is a man laughing at himself and he does a wonderful job at delivering some ridiculous monologues with an entirely straight face.
There’s a few missteps. Miranda Hart feels like she’s walked in from a different film and is basically playing the same character she plays on TV. While I know that has a big audience, it doesn’t stop it feeling out of place here. While Peter Serafinowicz is given the bare minimum to do as lecherous Italian agent, Aldo. It would be harsh to call it a bad performance, but it’s very much one that is painted from stereotype and fails to hit the comedic beats as well as his costars does.
Despite these issues Spy is good fun and if you are looking for some light-hearted comedy at the cinema rather than huge dinosaurs eating things, then it is probably the film to go for at the moment. It’s consistently funny and thanks to The Stath even provides a few proper belly laughs. With Feig about to head into Ghostbusters territory it rings well for that movie and is more than worthy in its own right.