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Spies…Spies..Everywhere There’s Spies…Chewing Up The Scenery…Blowing Your Mind…. August 8, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Pop Culture Rants.

With The Bourne Ultimatum raking in more cash than Warren Buffett has in the cushions of his couch (the previous metaphor stolen from the Dennis Miller Book of Metaphors…available wherever paperbacks are sold), its safe to say that spy movies are a bonafide action genre. Heck, they may even be one of the best and biggest. They’re here to stay people! So for those of you hoping that romantic comedies set in Middle America or movies starring CGI dogs and cats would win out, you’re SOL.

Spy movies are akin to stealing your friend’s marijuana plants: Hollywood makes money on them because everybody’s too scared and would get in too much trouble if they told the real story. Thusly, every spy movie could be the biggest bunch of fabrication since the Warren Commission Family Picnic (Thanks Dennis, yet again!) and nobody will know. Think the CIA, FBI, NSA and a whole bunch of other acronyms are going to step forward and admit how things are done. Hell to the no. So each film can claim to be accurate and load us up with car chases and gadgetry and strange Cold War scenarios and not a single person can ever call “Shenanigans.” Except for that guy over there…Oh wait, where are those men in suits taking him?

Yet with all these spy films coming 2 fast and 2 furious (Not a spy movie, by the way, I checked) you must ask yourself one question. Which spy defines me?  Which secret agent should I choose to follow intently?  There are several camps on this one. Let us, in attempt to appease all argument, first remove the Daniel Craig James Bond from future debate. Not saying I didn’t enjoy his first foray into the land of 007, but there are too many critics who feel the film was merely siphoning off the ideas the Bourne series had re-established as the new “IT” spy genre. (Some say siphoning: others say blatantly copying.) Plus it’s one chance. Make two good ones and we’ll talk. You can also shake off every single spy that popped up during that dark phase from 1985-1993 where Hollywood tried to re-invent the spy genre with a whole bunch of  “mistaken identity spy comedies.” Richard Grieco, Anthony Edwards, Jackie Chan, Val Kilmer. Not that you guys were doing much anyway, but you can all sit. (Okay, maybe you were, Val….your two minute cameo in Déjà vu…moving stuff…now, here…have another donut.)

Which means you are left with three major types of movie spies: the gritty realistic Jason Bourne type, the kitschy Cold War espionage of the James Bond type, and the uber-kitschy spoofy Austin Powers/ Flint winking at the camera so much I’m sure you have Tourettes goofball spy.

Any spy film from here on out will adhere to these three examples or Venn diagram somewhere in between. These are the examples, people. So, if you’re a Scientologist who is smiting me because I didn’t mention Ethan Hunt, I’m sorry. He’s like a good Chinese dinner: little from Column A, little from Column B. But he is not a Column unto himself. And besides would L. Ron want that anyway? Shame on all of you. Smiting me like that. And to think I actually paid to see Battlefield Earth (Receipt available upon request)

So which spy should you follow? Let’s look at each.

The Gritty Realistic Spy:  He’s either deep undercover or blending into society much like Henry Hill did when he took off the velour track suit. He’s not a blow up the whole building guy. His gadgets and methods are straight out of that annoying video game level you can’t beat (You know the one with all the stealthing…And yes stealthing is a word.) And his exploits are usually shot with the same gritty realism and gritty camera angles just in case you didn’t get that whole gritty realism thing. This guy blows your mind. Not because he escapes eight car pileups and citywide manhunts. And not because he can garrote you with a shoelace and duct tape all MacGyver style. It’s because he is SO real. This crazy behind the scenes stuff could really be happening.  He’s using real names and focusing on real problems (usually oil pipelines in the Middle East, scary biotoxins) and not some nameless faceless supervillain who lives in a cave. He’s the spy you root for because you want him on that wall. You need him on that wall. And you secretly hope there isn’t a wall, but you know better. No sex for me, please…I’m making the world safer. Or worse, depending.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Democrats, people with irrational fear of the Patriot Act, those with stock in Dramamine

The Kitschy Cold War guy: Yeah, this is what spying is all about. Still saving the world but doing it Hefner style. With a woman on one arm and a drink in the other. His entrances and exits are louder than a Metallica show at the Virginia College for the Deaf. He couldn’t save himself from a situation unless he had his gadgets. And oh what great ones they are. Invisible missile laden cars. Dual laser beamed watches. Exploding pens.  And everybody always gets it in the end. There’s no grey area. It’s Good vs. Evil. The Russians or the Eastern Europeans or the Colombian drug dealers. All of them must be stopped. And they will be stopped before they can unleash their havoc on the world. Because only he can do it. He’s like the Class Clown: a smartass remark everybody he does, well, anything that could call for a smart ass remark, from kicking ass to flirting to hanging out poolside in places he first made cool. Monte Carlo, the Caribbean, Antarctica (though maybe not poolside there) None of this could possibly happen. Nameless, faceless masterminds don’t exist. (Real life masterminds are way too media savvy to live in a hollowed out volcano.)  And again, do we know it isn’t like this? That in itself makes us feel safe, hoping it is

RECOMMENDED FOR: Republicans, the Tuxedos Renters Guild of America,  13 year old boys (because the sex is implied, never shown and once you past 13, you need a little more than innuendo)

The Spoofy Spy: Take every cliché you’ve ever seen and beat it into the ground. The only genre of spy films you know could never happen, because can somebody that ignorant really be on a major payroll somewhere (Wait…I’ll strike that from the record)  The jokes are like the plot outline: It’s Good vs. Evil.  Some work, some don’t. The gadgets are often ludicrous, but plausible. It’s like watching an old friend come for dinner: bask in the stories of yesteryear and laugh about when they went wrong. But you get sick of them quick and hopefully, they’re gone before desert

RECOMMENDED FOR: The young, the elderly, the three people who have never quoted Austin Powers ever.

Make your choice wisely, my budding Spy movie aficionados. It is a big choice and one that can determine your future movie-watching career. The debate will forever wage on and someday a spy type will emerge victorious. Let’s just hope it’s not Owen Wilson

(This post will self-destruct in five seconds.)



1. Kylie - August 16, 2007

At 8:30am on a Friday morning in the office and it suddenly feels like 3:30 on a Sunday morning in 1997. Miss those rants. But now they’re in lovely bitesize chewable pieces – and on the internets. So I can enjoy the ranting from a different continent. Technology – bringing together people from all over the world who enjoy the flotsam and jetsam of pop culture crap. Hope you and the missus are well.

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