Review: Spy

Just call her McCarthy. Melissa McCarthy.

Casting the next James Bond has been a point of much discussion lately. Should it be Idris Elba? Tom Hardy? Jon Hamm? Or maybe Daniel Craig should just go ahead and play the role indefinitely?

Meanwhile, as we were all having this discussion, Melissa McCarthy stealthily snuck into the part.

I’m kidding of course. But not really. Spy is many things: A clever spoof. A chance for Melissa McCarthy and her co-stars to strut their comedic chops. An international romp. It’s also a pretty darn engaging spy film. It’s about a woman leaning in and finding her inner Bond.

It doesn’t start out that way. When we first meet McCarthy’s Susan Cooper, she’s in the (pigeon-and-rat-infested) basement of the CIA, advising superspy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) as he infiltrates a party attended by a Russian crime lord who’s peddling a nuclear weapon. Fine is suave and fearless, but he couldn’t do it without Susan, who’s with him every step of the way. Turns out, Susan was trained to be a field operative herself, but Fine convinced her she was best utilized as his right hand woman. The fact that Susan is madly in love with Fine possibly factored into her decision to languish behind the scenes.

But with the crime boss dead, Fine suddenly out of the picture, and all the field agents’ covers blown by the baddies, it’s up to Cooper to save the day. Her boss (Alison Janney) sends her to Paris to trail the crime lord’s daughter, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), on what is characterized as strictly a surveillance operation.

One of the ongoing jokes of the film is that Susan is given frumpy spy identities—not sleek women of mystery, but soccer moms and cat ladies. (Even her cool gadgets aren’t that cool: Rape whistles that double as weapons and poison antidotes concealed in laxative bottles). Little by little, as she gets more emboldened, she takes charge of not just the operation, but her own appearance, trading in her dumpy sweaters and bad permed wigs for high-collared coats and sleek dark hair. While she follows Rayna from Paris to Budapest, she’s aided by her own agency point person, her best friend Nancy (Miranda Hart), and ultimately more hindered than helped by a cocky ex-CIA agent (Jason Statham, actually funny!) who spends most of the time boasting about his past adventures.

Melissa McCarthy is just great here, using the full range of her comedic gifts, especially once she starts taking matters into her own hands and becomes the badass she was obviously meant to be. All the supporting cast is wonderful (Jude Law make a pretty convincing case to be Bond himself), but I’d be remiss if I didn’t single out Rose Byrne, who nearly steals the show, dropping withering insults with a mean girl’s aplomb, while remaining devastatingly sexy and likeable. (Teach me your ways, Rose!)

And seriously, can Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) direct all the comedies? It’s great to see one that fires on all cylinders like this. Because really, who needs James Bond when you’ve got Susan Cooper?