SPY INTERVENTION: Doesn’t Universally Export Enough Laughs

Spy Intervention – directed by Drew Mylrea and written by Mark Famiglietti and Lane Garrison – follows Corey (Drew Van Acker) a spy who retires to get married after he literally runs into the perfect woman Pam (Poppy Delevingne). After living his mundane married life for a little too long, his spy partner Smuts (Blake Anderson) stages an intervention, which results in him being told he must complete one last mission like John Wick and Snake Plissken before him.

The Structure of the Romance

Spy Intervention has a fun enough premise that could really work well if we see enough of Corey’s life as a spy before he settles down. But this isn’t quite how it works out. Corey meets and falls for Pam in the first moments of the film – something that worked so well for Spy Kids because the romance was not the central focus of the rest of that film.

So much of Spy Intervention focuses on the relationship between Corey and Pam, which is not a problem, but introducing the characters in their first meeting, skipping their courtship, and throwing us back into their mundane, stale married life loses so much comedic potential.

SPY INTERVENTION: Doesn't Universally Export Enough Laughs
source: Cinedigm

Romance in film and television doesn’t work as well when we are told two characters are in love, rather than watching that love form. This introduction could have worked well if the film focused more on the spy mission than on saving the marriage to which we never feel properly introduced.

This structure of the story also does not allow the audience to get a real understanding of Corey’s personality as a spy. We know him more as the married guy who buys track lighting from the hardware store, so the jokes behind the mundanity don’t land as well as they should.

When We Finally See Spy Action

Spy Intervention works the best in its moments more fully surrounding the spy genre and the mission that should have been a larger aspect of the film. Its final moments work wonderfully as the full extents of both the spy and average home lives come tumbling together.

When Corey must pretend to be married to field agent Alexandria (Natasha Bassett), the film finds its footing but loses that momentum when we are once again in the hardware store. These moments of normal life could have provided more jokes if they didn’t feel like every moment was a rehashing of something we already saw.

SPY INTERVENTION: Doesn't Universally Export Enough Laughs
source: Cinedigm

The film also heavily relied on a recurring joke about cavemen that never landed, or were that connected to the tone or humor of the rest of the film.

Seeing Alexandria and Corey undercover together breathed life into the film, and gave a glimpse into what the premise guaranteed. Natasha Bassett plays her part in a way that blends the comedy of her intense dance moments with the conventions of past films in the genre. She brings a modern sensibility and comedic performance to a character that feels rooted in spy films of the 60s.

Style and Aspect Ratio

Spy Intervention has a changing aspect ratio, which seems to represent which scenes are Corey in his spy persona and which ones are his daily, married life.

Drew Van Acker does a great job of portraying both sides of his character, so we can see how different his past and present are from one another. It would have been nice to see a little more of this life before the marriage, but his performance helps that aspect of the film with how he changes small elements of his character to convey two very different personas.

The aspect ratios come across as too much. They muddle the differences that we can clearly see through the performances and settings of the more spy-oriented scenes within the film. As I watched Spy Intervention, the aspect ratio changes were jarring and made me wonder if I was just seeing things.

SPY INTERVENTION: Doesn't Universally Export Enough Laughs
source: Cinedigm

I can get an understanding of what these changes were trying to recapture – the slide, swipe, and shape transitions found in the visual style featured prominently in classic spy films. This style creates shapes that move naturally across the screen, rather than jarring quick changes to the ratio.

This filmmaking style could have worked wonderfully in these moments of aspect ratio change, but Spy Intervention’s quick changes of aspect ratio never felt intentional or creative. In the OSS 117 parody films, Michel Hazanavicus paid homage to the genre with his use of shape and ratios to capture the distinct visual style of the 50s and 60s spy films.

Even though the aspect ratios did not always work, the visual style stands out, especially in moments showing the differences between the mundane life and the spy one he left behind. I especially enjoyed the lighting throughout the film and the way a moment of two people hiding inside of a giant plant by the pool was rendered.

Conclusion

Spy Intervention doesn’t give much in terms of laughs, but a few moments, especially in the performances of Drew Van Acker and Natasha Bassett give life to an otherwise dull film. The story had potential but was not given enough time to shine, especially in its introduction to the world and its characters. Even though this film did not completely work for me, I am excited to see where the writers and director go from here.

Do you like spy comedies or other crossover genres? If so, what spy comedy or genre combination is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Spy Intervention will be available VOD on July 27, 2020 and can be pre-ordered here.


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