This is a femme-friendly and frequently hilarious riff on the fusty gender roles of the James Bond movies. It kicks off with debonair agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) doing some quality espionage at a ritzy Eastern European cocktail party. Chatting intel into his earpiece from a bat-infested basement back at CIA HQ is Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy), a 40-year-old woman who’s been on the job for ten years without spending a single day in the field.
No one takes Susan seriously, and the disrespect of her friends and colleagues has had a predictable effect on her self-worth. (Her mum used to write ‘Give up on your dreams, Susan’ in her lunchbox.) But when Bradley is unexpectedly shot in the face, Susan is inspired to take action, avenge her fallen partner and stop a villainous Bulgarian arms dealer named Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) from selling a nuke to anti-American terrorists.
The action Susan takes isn’t particularly compelling – despite shiny production values, the main character’s breasts aren’t the only reason ‘Spy’ won’t be confused with ‘Skyfall’ anytime soon. But the jokes often land with deadly force. The tricksy plot allows McCarthy to explore the full range of her comic persona, and Feig is smart enough to get out of her way as the mild-mannered Susan starts wielding f-bombs the way Bond whips around a Walther PPK.
Although the laughs begin to trickle as the film zig zags to the finish line, McCarthy’s gobsmacking improv skills have never been more brilliant than when she’s volleying one-liners with an old-school rival agent (Jason Statham, legendary). Though it’s been two years since they collaborated on ‘The Heat’, ‘Spy’ makes the case that Feig and McCarthy are still just warming up.