As we all return from our holidays, get ready to go back to work or school and begin to embrace the cool breeze of the Autumn air after one of the hottest summers on record, we may need something to combat those end of summer blues. The Spy Who Dumped Me might be just the right antidote.
I don’t want to waste time by giving a “this might not be your type of movie” etc. speech because, quite frankly, if you saw the trailer you knew what you were in for, and I’m bored with having to do a disclaimer every time I watch something that isn’t objectively good. Instead let’s discuss how this Susanna Fogel film holds up for what it is: a light spy comedy that keeps in mind why a viewer might choose to watch it. There’s a lot of movies I hold dear that I describe as comfort food films, because as much as I love filmmaking as an art form, sometimes I just want something to pass the time and eat takeout to. The Spy Who Dumped Me fits into this category with no shame and a delightful lack of sophistication.
When Audrey (Mila Kunis) finds out the man who just dumped her is actually a secret CIA agent, she is sent on a globe-trotting mission with her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon). The pair of thirty somethings are caught in the middle of governments, criminal organisations and assassins after they pick up a package all these entities want desperately and are willing to kill for. The premise is ridiculous and gleefully so, with the film taking next to no time to thrust us into the action. After short introductions that include a birthday party, a Ukrainian man and some McKinnon karaoke (isn’t there always?) the girls are caught in the crossfire, and we are off to the races. It’s frenetic mayhem where even the filler doesn’t really feel like a pause so much as an opportunity for some more humour.
“How do you change gear?”
As Audrey and Morgan plan their moves step by step it’s clear neither of them have any clue how to handle the situation, but somehow manage to live through every bullet storm and violent event. Sometimes by sheer luck, sometimes with the power of friendship! Their dynamic is the heart of the film, and both Kunis and McKinnon are great and committed throughout. They never turn into sudden action heroes either, as much as they try. Fogel keeps things semi-grounded by having a self-awareness in regards to the fact it’s crazy they keep getting away from danger. She keeps turning in creative and funny ways for the girls to evade harm and land themselves in exciting scenarios along the way. Whether it’s a café shootout in Vienna, a makeshift torture chamber in a gym or an Uber ride from hell—it’s not going to go smoothly. McKinnon and Kunis seem to be having a blast, and their authentic friendship goes a long way in turning a predictable spy parody into something truly engaging.
There’s something great about watching two people with zero preparation having to punch above their weight and find a way to survive. There’s many a moment in this film where you get to sit back and enjoy the panicked shrieks and pandemonium. Nothing ventured, a lot gained. It never once attempts real magnitude; thank god because it probably would have been horrible. Instead Audrey and Morgan both have relatable insecurities that they help each other work through and overcome. Turns out that with a little hair dye, a costume change and the unending support of your best buddy you have the power to wing it through anything. The R-rating helps a lot, too. Also, Gillian Anderson as an intimidating MI6 task leader, what more do you want?
“What’s a gear?!”
The pacing is great, the film doesn’t exactly feel short but it zips from set piece to set piece with haste, and there’s always a great joke-to-action ratio. The humour isn’t too overbearing and may fall flat a couple of times, but for the most part it’s actually quite a bit smaller in scale than the trailer suggests. The third act comes in heavier than I thought it would, but the fun along the way gets us there quickly. Something that surprised me was the film actually looks pretty good and operates on a visual level a lot better than I was expecting.
With films like this I wrongly go in expecting boring cinematography, direction and usually bad editing, but there’s actually a few shots in The Spy Who Dumped Me that had me take a second to appreciate the fact this isn’t one of those cases. It’s not technical mastery or anything, but the glaring problems I’ve come to expect from a ride such as this simply weren’t there, or if they were I was too distracted by obscenities to notice. It’s not overly light to the point of fluff, there is an edge to it, but there’s never enough heavy plot to force brain cogs to turn either. In the face of two potential extremes, The Spy Who Dumped Me struck a particularly balanced blend of spy shenanigans and genuine character interactions that kept me watching with nothing less than ease. I like that the jokes were usually the type that had me smiling to myself instead of pushing for hysterics, too.
I love coming away from a film knowing I’ll watch it again and again. I’m pleased to have a new addition to my comfort food movie list, and I’m pleased to say this was quite a bit better than I thought it was going to be. As it wrapped up with all the twists, hook-ups and explosions you’d expect from something like this, I realised I had not lost any of my time while watching and that it had only provided me with positives, even though I didn’t care about that much about a lot of it. It’s not necessarily something you have to see at the cinema—it’s perfect for late-night home viewing—but I’m glad I did make the effort to see it because now I know to buy it when it comes out. It’s been less than two hours since I got back from Cineworld, and I’m already planning my rewatch. It might be my Kate McKinnon bias speaking, but I enjoyed the hell out of this.
Hello, I am a Scottish filmmaker who enjoys writing about movies and reading comics! You can follow me on Twitter @_trudiegraham or on Instagram @tru.die