Sunday, 13 December 2015

The James Bond references in Spy (2015)

This year has seen the release of a higher than usual number of spy films, but I have to confess that I have not been keeping up with what has been termed the Year of the Spy, having missed almost every spy film released. (I did, of course, ensure I was in the cinema for Spectre.) The other week, however, I was able to catch up with one of the other entries in the unofficial series. And I'm very glad I did.

Spy is an espionage comedy, but is more than a parody of the spy film genre, offering genuine thrills, plenty of action, and an engaging plot. Essentially, the film answers the question of what would happen if Miss Moneypenny became James Bond. After the apparent death of an agent, the film sees desk-bound analyst, Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy), go into the field as an undercover agent to monitor and report the activities of an arms dealer, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), who knows the location of a stolen nuclear device. Needless to say, events do not run smoothly, and very quickly Susan Cooper goes beyond her orders as she tries to prevent nuclear disaster.

Director Paul Feig reportedly conceived the film as a humorous Casino Royale (2006), a favourite film of his, and it shows. Spy contains many nods to the James Bond films, in particular the classic films of Sean Connery and the more recent offerings of Daniel Craig.

The film opens with a pre-titles sequence featuring the cool, witty and dinner-suited Bradley Fine (Jude Law) – clearly a James Bond figure – in the course of a mission, with Barry-esque strains playing over the action. This is followed by a perfectly Bondian title sequence, accompanied by the equally Bondian song, 'Who can you trust?' (a title that might apply just as well to any of Daniel Craig's Bond films).

The Bond references keep on coming. We are introduced, for example, to Patrick (Michael McDonald), a Q-like character who supplies Susan Cooper with her equipment. Susan's visit to Patrick's workshop could almost have been lifted straight out of a Bond film. Equipment is hidden inside mundane items, and the scene includes gadgets being demonstrated (and going wrong) in the background. We also catch a glimpse of an Aston Martin (in this case a DB9).

Susan subsequently travels to Rome and visits a casino to keep close to Rayna Boyanov. Susan notices a waiter pour some poison into a cocktail intended for Rayna, and alerts Rayna to the threat in order to make contact with her. The poisoned cocktail naturally recalls the poisoned Vesper martini in Casino Royale. A private gambling room into which Susan stumbles is also reminiscent of Casino Royale.

In the casino, too, we see Jason Statham's rogue CIA agent Rick Ford (is there any other kind of agent these days?) in a white dinner jacket, presumably a nod to Bond's white jacket in Goldfinger (1964). Goldfinger is referenced again shortly afterwards when Susan is facing a suspicious Rayna outside the casino. Rayna's henchmen stand behind Susan, and when they lift their guns as if about to shoot Susan, she sees a reflection of their movements in Rayna's pendent. This brings to mind the pre-titles sequence in Goldfinger, when Bond sees the movement of a would-be killer reflected in the eyes of an exotic dancer. A later scene in which gun shots inside a plane depressurise the cabin must also allude to Goldfinger, specifically the well-known scene in which Goldfinger is sucked out of the plane.

There are doubtless other references, but those are the ones I spotted on first viewing. Throughout the film, however, Spy is an affectionate tribute to the Bond series, and contains the sort of exciting stunts, action and thrills that we'd expect to see in any Bond film. What's more, Spy is hilarious, and (I never thought I'd say this) Jason Statham is a revelation, as he sends up his tough-guy persona. The film is a must-see for any Bond fan.

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