What’s The Movie? The Spy Who Dumped Me
What’s It All About, JG? Audrey Stockton (Mila Kunis) get unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend via text. Classy. Turns out, though, he’s a spy (you might possibly be able to deduce that from the movie’s title) and while returning to pick up his stuff and apologise, he’s killed in a raid and his dying words are to deliver a trophy to Vienna. The trophy hides This Movie’s McGuffin, a USB stick that acts as a backdoor to the entire internet. This sends Audrey and her best friend, Morgan (Kate McKinnon), on a cross-European jaunt to work out what’s going on and, if possible, survive.
It is, in other words, a pretty straightforward comedy spy film of the type you might remember from 2015’s surprisingly delightful, um, Spy. But in that movie Melissa McCarthy’s character was a desk-bound agent who dreamed of more – Audrey and Morgan are just two women who are fed up with being underestimated and given the opportunity to do more prove remarkably adept at changing gears into the spy lifestyle. There’s a difference of emphasis here which helps mark The Spy Who Dumped Me apart from the earlier effort, and it has a slender but definite commitment to giving the two lead characters actual lives (Morgan’s insistence in letting her parents know what’s going on with her ought to be unbearably cliched, but really works well here) which makes them easy to invest in.
Why Did You Give It A Go? Well I quite like spy movies, I quite like comedy spy movies, and I definitely like Mila Kunis, who continues her near-unbroken run of being in movies which prove how good she in on screen while never quite making a movie that follows up on that. Honestly, each movie she appears in seems to be the audition piece for how great she can be and the next film she’ll be in should be the one that launches her to better things, but she never quite seems to get a script that puts her over the top. And of course Kate McKinnon great, but that hardly needs saying, does it?
Is It Any Good? It’s decent, yeah, though with a fair few caveats. Most obviously, if you’ve seen Spy you’ve seen a large chunk of this. The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t aiming for originality and doesn’t come close to achieving that, but then that’s clearly not the point of the exercise. This is a buddy movie with two terrifically watchable leads going through a few set-pieces for a couple of hours, and in doing that the film succeeds pretty well. Some parts work better than others – the reveal of Hasan Minhaj’s Duffer as the mole is especially hackneyed, which is a shame because up to that point he had a good double-act going with nominal male lead Sam Heughan. Balanced against that are lots of little moments that ought to inspire weary eye-rolls but somehow come together – the cheeky inclusion of Edward Snowden as an actual character, dropping in via phone to help the girls work out what’s actually on the USB stick that everyone seems so determined to get their hands on, shouldn’t land but does. There’s lots of bits of the movie like that – a surprisingly successful conceit that could have gone badly wrong but just kind of works (the gymnast/assassin is another). One of the other things that’s quite refreshing about this is that it’s got a 15 Certificate (in the UK), so people can actually curse and swear, the violence looks a bit more real, and there’s a sense that this is being made for actual adults. It’s not a big change but it gives the film something a little distinctive again – most spy comedies or spoofs are PG and safe, but here people are actually allowed to say “fuck” when they’re being shot at or whatever. You wouldn’t go so far as to say this makes it more “realistic”, exactly, but it certainly makes it feel a touch more plausible, and it’s just nice to have people be able to respond in the way they actually might in that situation. Again, it’s a small thing, but it’s appreciated.
How Many Of These Did You Watch? As previously mentioned I like Mila Kunis a lot but her filmography is pretty hit-and-miss. I’ve seen plenty of spy spoofs, some of which have been great (Spy, of course) and some of which very much haven’t (anything starring Rowan Atkinson).
Would You Recommend It? On the understanding that what you’re getting is a light buddy comedy with two women who make for a great pair of leads and don’t go in expecting The Naked Gun levels of gags, then yes, mostly I would. The best reason to watch this is for Kunis and McKinnon, who really do work terrifically well together and are never less than hugely watchable. And that there’s a film out there which unapologetically sticks its two female stars front and centre while leaving all the men as mostly second-tier characters is rather great as well – that’s markedly unusual in this type of movie and something to be praised. The film is also smart enough to deliver this with a very light touch, so though we get a few lines from Audrey about how she’s fed up with being constantly underestimated we don’t get “the big feminist speech”, her abilities are simply allowed to speak for themselves, which is much more effective (she’s also got (just) enough character to understand that she’s also partly responsible for her own situation herself, a level of self-awareness not often gifted to characters in these kind of films). I don’t want to oversell the film – this is a light, entertaining movie that’s perfect for Saturday night beer and pizza, buoyed by good performances but hampered by a paint-by-numbers plot. But it’s always watchable and entertaining and you know – there’s nothing wrong with a solid Saturday night beer-and-pizza movie. Really, the worst thing here is that terrible title – alongside movies like (the endearing and rather wonderful) Happy Death Day the title is the worst thing about the movie. Don’t let it put you off. Oh, and one more thing – Gillian Anderson is in this for about… four minutes of screen time? No, I don’t know why either.
Scores On The Doors? 6.5/10. Ah bugger it, 7/10. I did enjoy this!