Film No 20 (2015) : Spy

spyWell, who’d have thought it? Fat people can be good at their jobs. Amazing isn’t it?

What’s more, they can fall in love with beautiful people, like CIA agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Jeez, talk about Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) punching above her not inconsiderable weight. Don’t worry though, just in case anyone in the film audience might be misled into thinking that the most corpulent member of the CIA office team may be able to make a positive contribution to the protection of national security, we will put her into an array of unflattering, stereo-typed and ridiculous characters when she goes undercover. Tell you what, we will also contrast her with several stick-thin actresses just to push the point home. Yet, Susan Cooper still comes out on top. Despite being a lump.

Do I sound scathing? More than a little. My co-viewers accused me of over-analysing. Maybe I am a little hyper-sensitive being of the chunky monkey variety myself, but my son did concede that ‘Spy’ would not have worked, been anywhere near as funny, had Susan Cooper been a breadstick.

Susan Cooper is the voice in Fine’s ear. Using advanced technology, she is able to track and monitor the agent’s precise location and direct him out of danger. When Fine is killed in action, Cooper persuades her boss Elaine (Alison Janney) to let her go undercover to hunt out the villains. The mission takes Cooper to Paris, Rome and Budapest as she is sent to track and report on the movements of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) and Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale). Having not been out in the field for some time, Cooper’s skills are rusty, but she grows in confidence and before long is wielding pistols and hanging off helicopters with the best of them.

I am not daft enough not to be able to see the comedy value of the film. It has a smart script, peppered with witty one-liners and quotable moments. It also has an array of glorious characters, particularly the wonderfully ambigious Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz) and egotistical braggart Rick Ford (Jason Statham). The settings are glamorous and some of the action sequences nail-bitingly brilliant; notably, a fight between Cooper and Lia (Nargis Fakhri) in a hotel kitchen, where the choreography is stunning, a decent car chase and several exciting punch-ups. Miranda Hart stars as Nancy but to my mind, she is one of those actors (along with Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy and Billy Connolly) who just play themselves all the time.

‘Spy’ will make you laugh. I just couldn’t get over the insidious underlying messages. To me, laughing at fat people is a cheap gag.

Film No 3 (2015) : The Talented Mr Ripley

mr ripley 2This film was released in 1999, an adaptation of the novel by Patricia Highsmith. I really can’t believe I haven’t seen it before, and I’ve never read the book. Maybe when the movie came out I was too busy doing other things, like looking after a baby daughter, to have time to go to the cinema. Which probably explains why I have never seen ‘Fight Club‘ or ‘American Beauty‘ either.

When Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) borrows the jacket of a Princeton graduate in order to stand in for a piano player, it is not unreasonable for party guest Herbert Greenleaf to ask Tom whether he knew his son, Dickie (Jude Law), at University. Mr Ripley, an accomplished liar, mimic and forger, pretends that he did. When Mr Greenleaf Snr offers Tom £1,000 to travel to Italy in order to persuade his wayward son to come home, the young fraudster accepts without compunction. Once in Europe, Tom quickly ingratiates himself with Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), and is drawn into their luxurious, hedonistic lifestyle. But Dickie is capricious and he tires of Tom’s fawning attention. When Tom confesses his true feelings for the glamorous playboy, he is cruelly rejected and retaliates with violent rage. The ensuing passionate argument sets off a train of events which leaves young Mr Ripley hovering between deception and discovery.

With its wealth of emerging talent, this film is gripping entertainment. The actors are bright young things, Law epitomising the carelessness of those accustomed to wealth, contrasting sharply with Damon’s restroom attendant inferiority. But Mr Ripley learns quickly and his shape-shifting skill is the key to the watchability of the film. I was on the edge of my seat as the net drew in around the extremely talented Mr Ripley, wondering if he had just one more trick up his sleeve. My only regret is that I hadn’t read the book first.