Comedy and spy story have always been linked by a long cinematic history, precisely because some of the topics of the detective story had already been parodied. The eternal ethical, moral and physical challenge of policemen and criminals calls for the chase and therefore for comedy.
The cinema, in fact, immediately understood how much some actions were comical in their simplest form. If we think of spy stories, we certainly think of the James Bond saga, also mentioned in Paul Feig‘s film “Spy”, which we are analyzing today. On the other hand, it was Hitchcock‘s masterpiece “North by Northwest” that invented some narrative and aesthetical solutions, even though it was already aware of inserting comedy within an absolutely exaggerated context.
“Spy”, written and directed by Paul Feig, builds a quite credible context of a spy story since there are many stylistic elements of the genre: betrayals, terrorists, gadgets and the buying and selling of a device. There is really everything, even the tour of iconic places among which stands out Budapest in which the whole last act is filmed, enhanced by the beautiful scenery that Hungary offers.
After this introduction the plot is quickly said. 2015, at the CIA there seems to be an infallible team formed by Susan (Melissa McCarthy) and Bradley (Jude Law). He is a field agent, tackling missions and taking all the risks we can imagine. She, on the other hand, is his assistant, advising him through an earpiece how to behave in the face of the difficulties of a mission: armed men, safe roads to take and much more.
During a mission Bradley dies and Susan is called to continue the mission abruptly interrupted by her partner. From this moment on, “Spy”will make its protagonist a magnet for the most bizarre characters and the most unpredictable situations.
As for any protagonist, also Susan goes on a journey, that of the heroine. In fact, unlike the male protagonist, she will have to face her mission with a ridiculous equipment, a derogatory identity and not particularly reliable companions. All this is very interesting and seems to direct the narrative towards a truly feminine journey, since it is different and in some segments more difficult than the male one.
Out of all of Susan‘s sidekicks, Rick, played by Jason Statham, stands out. The latter is one of the best aspects of the whole “Spy”, as it makes Statham impersonate a parody of the classic strong, virile man of which his filmography is full. He is in fact a parody of the special agent who thinks he is cool and experienced, instead he is very stupid.
Opposing this character is Bradley, who instead is the classic elegant and refined English spy. Completing the trio of male spies is Aldo, a very vulgar and over the top Italian agent. Among all these males Susan is, as expected, the sentimental and sexual interest, but she herself is the bearer of a whole series of stereotypes, sometimes overt and sometimes not.
Susan in fact appears immediately clumsy due to an emphasis of writing on the actress’ physique and also many characters ridicule her on many occasions: from clothing to other. Nothing, however, particularly bad. The comedy is often demential and treats topics quite childish while precisely others are much more sophisticated, such as the very existence of the character of Rick.
As is the case with other films of Paul Feig, the staging has no particular solutions, but is limited to showing an entertaining action, choreographed combat remarkable and beautiful places, including various monuments of Budapest, which can be seen during the film.
Being a demential comedy “Spy”by Paul Feig does not have much ambition and in fact chooses to find the balance between action and comedy. The main villain, physically very different from Susan, represents an excellent opposition to the protagonist and their sequences together will give you many surprises.
Often in these films so rich in comedy often puerile, there is the risk of propagating a stereotyped or false representation. “Spy”, on the other hand, with the exception of a few segments such as the continuous catcalling in Rome, knows how to tread the right tracks to avoid showing unnecessary and unnecessarily insulting comedy.
Infiltrated into the action behind an ungrateful disguise, Susan Cooper reveals herself to be a genius, a prodigy she constantly ignores and belittles. Able more than a mirror to grasp her image, Feig makes a film that seems to discuss more of the social differences of gender, the perception between men and women therefore how society acts on certain reversals. In all this, Feig converts the codes of the spy story into comic analysis, unmasks sexism in the workplace and the paternalistic condescension with which women are assigned subordinate roles.
Adopting the popular comedy form, Feig reiterates his fondness for outsiders we laugh with but don’t laugh at. Rather, it is Jason Statham‘s triumphant, hyperkinetic, manly heroism that is ridiculed. Feig validates the outsider, gives him back his skills, grants him space, scope, and redemption.
It is also important to underline that “Spy”is part of a process of feminization of the genre that is almost exclusively male. If you think of the various films I have mentioned, women are mainly Bond girls, traitors or simple objects to be saved. Susan, on the other hand, is all together in the same film: the sexual interest, the courageous protagonist and the main comic engine. All of this is Melissa McCarthy, actress in fact on which the film rests and for which you have her to thank above all, if the film has satisfied you.
Obviously here feminism is not as preponderant as you may think from all this, yet the commitment to reinterpret the classic spy story. For all these reasons we recommend watching it, especially if you want to spend a pleasant evening with a comedy that is anything but stupid.