Directed by Susanna Fogel
The Spy Who Dumped Me has a lot in common with the old Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn thriller/romance/comedy Charade (1963). In both cases the protagonist finds herself caught up in a world of deception and murder thanks to her connection to a dead or dying romantic interest. In Charade it was Hepburn’s deceased husband, and in The Spy Who Dumped Me it’s Mila Kunis’ ex-boyfriend Justin Theroux.
Audrey (Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) have been best friends for twelve years. We rarely see them apart from each other, so the film sets them up almost as one entity. When Drew (Theroux) is outed as a spy and then killed in front of them, they will have to go on the run. The specifics of the plot require them to stick together, but you get the sense they wouldn’t have it any other way. Even if it was only Audrey who was being hunted by international assassins it seems Morgan would drop everything and hop along for the ride.
The details of the plot escape me, but it has to do with a MacGuffin, a small trophy containing a flash drive. Several different people are after it, including Hasan Minhaj as a supposed CIA operative and thinly disguised villain, his partner Sebastian (Sam Heughan) who seems to be one of the good guys, an Eastern European gymnast/assassin looking for meaningful connection, two elderly agents who had posed as Drew’s parents and, eventually and inevitably, Drew himself.
There is a very complicated web of rogue agents and misdirection. One person is introduced as a good or bad operative and then made to seem the opposite of what they were initially. It’s like a roulette wheel in which the eventual love interest is whatever number you land on last.
Come to think of it, I’m not even sure what happened in all of this other than that our heroes won. The story, of course, has such an ending baked into the cake, so the thrills aren’t about how things end, just how we get there. It’s the journey, you know?
The heart of the movie is the friendship between Audrey and Morgan. They tell each other anything, though not quite as much as Morgan tells her mom (her parents, played by Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser, aren’t fazed when they learn she has killed someone and is on the run in a foreign country). When Audrey and Morgan quickly hop a plane to Austria, it’s perhaps a leap in logic just to get the story started, but it also suggests the strong bond between them. They would literally die for each other.
The movie is a comedy/thriller, though while the comedy seems to take priority, I found the movie remarkably, refreshingly violent for a genre hybrid such as this. There are no pulling punches, unless it involves the people who aren’t allowed to die, and the violence is both surprising and impactful. The best such sequence takes place in a lavish Austrian cafe, and the resulting carnage is a bit of a shock to your system, providing the same hyper violence as in a movie like Kick-Ass or Kingsman: The Secret Service.
The movie mines comedy from this surprising violence, particularly at the hands of these two non-spy, non-action hero protagonists. The violence, then, is as shocking to us as it is to them, but after a death or two they, like the audience, become unfazed by the bloodshed. It’s their ambivalence towards it all that helps keep the movie chugging along, calling attention, I suppose, to either a lack of awareness of a simple joie de vivre. When everyone is trying to kill you, just being alive is like a drug. It’s adrenaline, that’s what it is.
The funniest part of the movie has Audrey and Morgan tied up in an old rundown gymnasium where a slender, sinister gymnast cartwheels into frame and then prepares to torture them in a myriad of ways. She, like all of the villains, assume Audrey and Morgan are spies, so as she prepares to torture them, they try their best to convince her they aren’t hiding any deep secrets from her by spilling all of the secrets they know about each other.
The gymnast assassin stops, confused. She doesn’t understand how they could know so much about each other without the knowledge coming from espionage. The concept of friendship, let alone of a best friend, is that foreign to her.
The intimacy between Audrey and Morgan goes mostly unchallenged and certainly unscathed throughout the film. This isn’t one of the stories in which as the walls close in the two main characters also turn on each other, in order to help sell the “dark night of the soul” part of the script. Instead, no matter the tenuousness of their situation, Audrey and Morgan remain firmly on each other’s side.
Up Next: Burning (2018), Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018), The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)