The Spy Who Dumped Me is not a perfect movie… but it does deserve a sequel.
The problem is, as a first outing, it works more like a TV series pilot than a stand-alone film. Its cinematic world hasn’t quite found its voice or its footing yet, although it’s on the right track. But this uneven flow is a forgivable quirk owing mostly to the ambition of its design.
As a hybrid “action thriller romantic buddy spy comedy,” it’s trying to do a bit too much at once. The spycraft is overly convoluted, the tone is frustratingly inconsistent, and the jokes work more like a shotgun than a sniper rifle: just spray everything far and wide and hope something hits. You get more misses that way, but sooner or later you’re bound to get the job done.
And yet, the movie works better than the sum of its parts.
This happens largely because the concept has so much potential, the cast have a world of chemistry together, and the story has infinite opportunities to expand in all directions.
It also has one of the best trailers of the year.
So, given that we now live in a world where even Sicario (whose total US box office was just $46M) earned a sequel, here are five reasons why The Spy Who Dumped Me deserves to become a full-fledged summer franchise.
We Don’t Get Enough Mainstream Comedies About Female Friendship
Director Susanna Fogel, who co-wrote the script with David Iserson, said their big concern when it came to getting the movie made was to keep the sensibility of its central female friendship intact. And on that score, The Spy Who Dumped Me definitely delivers.
Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) are two fuckups in their 30s. They don’t have great jobs or amazing relationships. Audrey has self-esteem issues and Morgan has delusions of grandeur. But they do have each other, and that bond is what drives the film forward.
The plot — ironically thin yet complex — revolves around Audrey and Morgan trying to safeguard a secret from Drew (Justin Theroux), the spy who dumped Audrey, and Sebastian (Sam Heughan), the spy who’s chasing them. The MacGuffin that everyone is after is a trophy that contains a Very Important Secret, which multiple governments and spy agencies are desperate to find. But the real point of the film is that friends stick together, even through breakups and international murder sprees.
In one of the film’s best scenes, Audrey and Morgan are being held prisoner by gymnast-turned-assassin Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno) and tortured to reveal the Very Important Secret. To try to convince Nadedja that they’re pathologically incapable of keeping secrets in the first place, the two women start spilling every secret they know about each other.
During this flood of oversharing, the assassin turns around in genuine confusion and asks, “How do you two know all these things about each other?”
“Because we’ve been best friends our whole lives,” says Audrey.
“Don’t you have a best friend like that? Someone who knows everything about you?” asks Morgan.
The assassin nods wistfully… and her eyes go to the dilapidated balance beam in the corner of the gym. It’s simultaneously hilarous and tragic, and it underscores an unspoken truth: long-lasting friendships are rare — onscreen and in reality — which is why we need to support the ones we do find.
You know what else we need more of?
More Completely Original Movies, Please
I don’t necessarily mean totally original ideas, since those are hard to come by in our meta-referential modern world. I mean movies that aren’t based on pre-existing intellectual property.
Of the 23 sequels that have made over $10M at the US box office so far in 2018, only 7 of them are sequels to movies made from original screenplays. The rest are adapted from pre-existing properties: comic books, video games, TV shows, or novels.
The Spy Who Dumped Me is that rare find in Hollywood: an original screenplay that introduces all-new likable characters who can be built on and spun off with total creative freedom.
While existing IP is much easier to market and therefore more profitable, original ideas are what Hollywood needs to nurture if it wants to avoid becoming a year-long loop of 2-hour toy commercials.
Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon Deserve to Be Headliners
The Spy Who Dumped Me would fall apart under the weight of its own plot holes if Kunis and McKinnon didn’t click, but it turns out they work together extremely well.
It’s a delicate balancing act: Kunis is the lead, but McKinnon is theoretically the bigger draw. Regardless of who’s on first, both women have fantastic comic timing that enables them to riff off each other’s strengths: Kunis arcs between vulnerable and vixen, while McKinnon gets to slip between sly and manic the whole time.
While the Ghostbusters reboot may have been a better use of McKinnon’s specific brand of off-kilter humor, The Spy Who Dumped Me gives her a chance to play a full range from subtly dismissive to over-the-top theater kid gone hyper.
Kunis has the tougher job, making Audrey feel realistic and grounded enough that the whole “spies are trying to kill us” plot will seem like it actually has real emotional stakes, rather than just an excuse to keep moving game pieces around the board. Wisely, the film lays a lot of this groundwork in flashbacks to the relationship that Audrey cultivated with Drew — and which Morgan played a key role in — where we get to see what makes each character really tick.
Honestly, the chemistry among the four leads is so strong that I’d rather watch a whole film of Kunis, McKinnon, Theraux and Heughan just talking and traveling without all the punching and shooting.
But then we’d miss out on The Spy Who Dumped Me‘s real secret weapon:
Sam Heughan Is a (Surprisingly) Badass Action Star
Best known as Jamie Fraser, the smoldering hero in Starz’s time-traveling romantic adventure Outlander, Heughan is still a newbie to the film world. (Fogel admits that she hadn’t even heard of Outlander when she cast Heughan, only to find out afterward that every woman she knew was suddenly very interested in her movie. This might be why.)
Here, he plays an MI-6 operative who fires bullseyes and snaps necks without a second thought, but who gets tongue-tied around the right woman. (Which, in a way, isn’t much different from his Outlander role after all.)
While Tom Cruise and Dwayne Johnson make saving lives look like the hardest job imaginable during the workplace fetishism of Mission: Impossible — Fallout or the Duct Tape homage that is Skyscraper, Heughan makes jetsetting and ass-kicking look easy.
He also looks great in a suit, which is half the job of any spy.
So worry all you want about who’s going to play the next James Bond, but if Heughan gets to turn Sebastian into a serialized superstar in The Spy Who Dumped Me franchise, you won’t spend too much time going through 007 withdrawal.
Speaking of which, here’s one mild SPOILER ALERT for The Spy Who Dumped Me…
Deep Down, This Bloody, Messy Movie Has a Classy Message
From Morgan’s showy hijinks to the strangely reoccuring toilet humor to the sizable amount of blood that appears on-camera, The Spy Who Dumped Me has more in common with Deadpool than Dr. No — when it comes to getting its point across, it’s anything but subtle.
Except when it comes to romance.
Here, the film is all about small gestures, subtle cues, and those fragile connections that make a moment feel like magic.
And while it’s easier to smuggle a feel-good message into a movie like Tag than one where a guy literally gets drowned in a pot of boiling cheese fondue, it’s worth paying attention to which characters treat women well in this movie.
In spy movies and in life, that’s a pretty good indicator of who the real heroes are.
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