It opens with a sweeping tracking shot traveling over blue water towards an enormous European chateau, while the John Barry-esque score plays on the soundtrack. Inside, impeccably dressed millionaires hob-knob with other impeccably dressed millionaires. A smoothly debonair man in a tuxedo slips undetected downstairs. Already, we’re laughing in the audience, as we’ve seen countless James Bond and other espionage films that begin in a similar fashion.
Like all good parodies, Spy looks and feels like the kind of movie it’s parodying. These movies must have the visual style of the genre they’re subverting. In the opening of the film, the secret agent, Bradley Fine (gamely played by Jude Law) and his mission are impeded by a pollen allergy. It is a hilarious moment.
Back in Langley, deep in the basement, lurking at a computer monitor is Bradley’s partner, Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy). Cooper is an agent, but has spent most of her C.I.A. career as Fine’s eyes-and-ears, keeping him safe and pining for him for afar. Fine, of course, is oblivious to Cooper’s affections, and relies on Cooper not only in the field, but also to do a variety of errands for him, including fire his gardener (which pays off in a funny gag).
Before too long, complications arise which force Susan Cooper into action with her first mission. Aided by her best friend Nancy (a delightful Miranda Hart) in the C.I.A. control room, and hindered by a rough, rogue agent (Jason Statham, mocking his action hero status quite well), Cooper is in pursuit of a nuclear bomb, and the villainous Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne).
Like the Austin Powers films, Spy spoofs the genre mercilessly; thanks to the wonderful comedic cast. Of course, this is really Melissa McCarthy’s movie, and she is terrific. She creates a character who is both hilarious and just a good character; I would love to see Susan Cooper in more movies. Like Whoopi Goldberg or Eddie Murphy or John Candy or Jerry Lewis, Melissa McCarthy is a comic star who deserves big-budget comedy vehicles. She, just like those comedians, is so singular a talent that she can effortlessly carry a major Hollywood film like this.
Spy is a consistently funny movie with a great leading performance by Melissa McCarthy. Make no doubt about it, she’s the real thing.
Spy. 2015. Dir. Paul Feig. With Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale. Written by Paul Feig. Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman. United States.