I’m going to be honest with you guys. I didn’t think this film was going to be good. Maybe a few laughs here and there and a bunch of lazy humor. Something that I would walk out of with mild amusement then forget about until I found it in a bargain bin and buy it for $5 because hey it made me laugh once or twice.
I was happily wrong.
This film is fantastically disguised as a kids film about a man being turned into a pigeon, when in reality it’s about a kid who just wants to be appreciated for his work. Yes the man turning into a pigeon is a big plot point of this film but this movie is just as much about Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) as it is about Lance Sterling (Will Smith).
Aspiring inventor and boy genius, Walter Beckett is a MIT graduate whom aspires to make inventions that will change the landscape of the spy world. He makes unusually “cute” items ment to pacify an enemy rather than kill unlike many other of the inventions we see including a hat that decapitates the wearer, a lighter grenade (classic), and a M-9 Assassin Drone. That last one being the objective of our other main character, one Lance Sterling, whom is tasked with retrieving the stolen weapon and returning it back to the facility. After an exhilarating action set piece that seems to take inspiration from films like Kingsman, The John Wick series, and the Later Bond films, Lance retrieves and returns the drone, only to discover the weapon had be taken out of its case. He also discovers that the he had been framed for stealing the weapon. In comes one Walter Beckett who offers Lance an new form of hiding known as “biodynamic concealment.” An invention of his own which Lance soon discovers turns him into a bird.
A fun fast goofy plot that has well thought out characters that range from a scale of objectively good to objectively bad within a moral scale. Walter being on the good side of things and Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) being on the end of being fully bad.
Walter Beckett is a pacifist whom wishes to change the world. Lance Sterling, a US marine, wishes to be the top dog of his job and is willing to do whatever it takes. He doesn’t desire to see innocents die but is willing to for the greater good only if necessary. Killian is a survivor from an unnamed battle in Kyrgyzstan whom is willing to kill whoever gets in his way.
The film treads carefully on a tight rope of grey areas, my favorite being that when we’re introduced to the M-9 Assassin Drone, we are fully informed of how lethal and dangerous it could be. When Lance returns the case rather than it being secured immediately it is handed over to the US Army like a new toy to play with, the film later touches on this with Killian’s monologue. He talks about how it was the agency’s fault for the death of his men, as they were just soldiers fighting a war. It was the United States fault for their deaths, the United States fault for him losing an arm, the United States fault for the destruction of his home.
It’s a really great directorial debut film by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane and shockingly a great film to close out 2019. The film is well written, well animated, and has a fantastic emphasis on teamwork and comedic timing. The film has a good amount of jokes that hit around 95 percent of the time.
The animation is also stunningly beautiful and stylish, the sets and environments being well detailed and modeled. It feels like something that uses the medium of animation as a form of expression rather than just telling a story. There are many visual gags that could only be done well in animation and they use it to their imagination. The lighting is also beautiful! Theres a particular scene in Venice, you’ll know it when you see it, that made my jaw drop and say “Holy Shit.”
Animation wise this film is near the top of my list and honestly tops Frozen II, I really loved just about every aspect of Spies In Disguise. A film that tributes what it is inspired by while doing something creative and orginal, and goes above and beyond for style and writing. I love this film and wish the best for it, it’s a timeless classic I hope to see again in the near future.
I hope to see more of Nick Bruno and Troy Quane’s work in the future and see what other things they may come up with. https://youtu.be/A05s7OM-8Oc