If you'd told me at the start of 2015 that the latest Melissa McCarthy comedy generically titled "Spy" would be my favourite film of the year at this point, I would have surely called you crazy. But lo and behold, this James Bond-esque spoof has snuck itself to the top of the pile. Easily the most fun film of the year so far, "Spy" once again proves why McCarthy is one of Hollywood's most valuable stars.
In the film, McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a desk worker at the CIA who suddenly gets the opportunity of a lifetime after an unfortunate tragedy. While providing intel for a partner agent (played by Jude Law), she witnesses his demise at the hands of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), the daughter of the terrorist they are tracking. After it's revealed that Boyanov knows the whereabouts and identities of the remaining agents, Cooper volunteers herself as an inconspicuous undercover agent. Initially agreeing to spy from afar, she soon finds herself actively engaged in the mission, finally making use of all the skills she had honed many years ago.
What unfolds is a rolicking adventure through Europe as McCarthy pursues villains through Paris, Rome and Budapest. Along the way, she encounters several colorful characters, in a cast that includes Jason Statham, Rose Byrne and Jude Law, all playing specific archetypes to hilarious effect. Rose Byrne is sexy and condescending, Jason Statham is aggressively cocksure and Jude Law is the James Bond surrogate, handsome and debonair.
But it's McCarthy who really gets to shine in her best performance to date. Having already proven herself adept in both comedic ("Bridesmaids") and dramatic roles ("St. Vincent), this role showcases her as genuine top actress. This is all thanks to a screenplay that allows her to be alternately tough, sweet, strong, clumsy, awkward and most daringly of all, sexy. The way the film cleverly subverts expectations of her persona is genius and she absolutely owns it. Not once do you doubt her capabilities in a given situation.
Though I would hesitate to call this a "great" screenplay (individual scenes aren't quite as memorable/quotable as those in Paul Feig's other hit "Bridesmaids"), the direction and performances are so lively that you're constantly entertained. The film really commits to its spy movie tropes too, orchestrating great escapes and death-defying stunts that are thrilling to watch. All in all, "Spy" provides gratifying entertainment like a quality summer film is supposed to. It's one of the most rewarding movie tickets you could purchase this year.