Wednesday, 10 June 2015

"Spy" film review!



I turned up at my local cinema expecting to like "Spy." Knowing Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy have already made "Bridesmaids" and "The Heat" together, with a reboot of "Ghostbusters" due, they are building a track record for strong and funny female starring roles in comedy films of the sort that were just not seen up to a few years ago. The James Bond-style opening credits sequence makes it clear - McCarthy is the star, and Jason Statham, Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz and Jude Law are in the supporting cast.

The entire opening sequence wrong-foots you into thinking you are about to watch a spoof of a Bond film, cutting between agent Bradley Fine and his working partner Susan Cooper, guiding him from a desk in a CIA basement. But, when Fine is believed killed, it is Cooper, a trained agent that never entered the field, is deployed, at her suggestion, to observe and report on the daughter of a Bulgarian crime lord, who may know the whereabouts of an atomic bond. It is Cooper's impulsive decision to become a double agent, to become much closer to the daughter, but it is her force of character that prevents her from becoming out of depth. When it becomes clear that Fine is not only alive, but is playing at being a double agent himself, Cooper is best placed to untangle the web, and save the day.

I have deliberately not gone into the story too much, as it is full of the Hitchcockian double agent twists and turns that were present in "North by Northwest," which is perfect for a comedy. The supporting cast are perfectly chosen - Peter Serafinowicz is very good as an oily, macho Italian agent, while Miranda Hart, in a part written for her, provides a good manic energy as Cooper's best friend and fellow agent. Jason Statham, as many have already said, parodies his tough guy roles so well that it may be worth considering a career in comedy instead.

However, about halfway through the film, Cooper, pretending to be bodyguard to the daughter of a Bulgarian crime lord (played by Rose Byrne), is told by said daughter to tone down the expletive-ridden insults that were being dished out to her by Cooper, in an attempt to provide a character strong enough to avoid blowing her cover. It was a good thing this was said on screen, as I had been thinking it already.

In a film where profanity and improvisation go hand in hand, I was sat in the cinema thinking that it is not that the film is too long, though two hours is a long time for a comedy, and it is not that separate scenes are too long, but it felt that individual shots went on too long, as if Paul Feig was egging on Melissa McCarthy to let rip at every available opportunity. It is fine to make you point, and provide a good laugh, but once the point has been made, you should move on. 

"Spy" is a funny film, but it does become tiring to watch. Comedy demands the most physical reaction from its audience, and a two-hour film needs its quiet moments, or even an interval, to allow time to recover. "Spy" has none of that, unless you count Miranda Hart's character mounting 50 Cent at a gig to provide a cover as enough of a spectacle to break up the story for a few seconds. I will get this film when it is released on Blu-Ray later this year, when I will have my pause button ready.

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