Russian Spies Ruin The Movie Ideal of Cool Secret Agents

Matt Kiebus :: Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 5:30 pm

kgb1A career in espionage and international intrigue is not normally found on a Craigslist ad or There are no pamphlets detailing the job description for being a spy, nor recruiting offices. We don’t know what their jobs entail, because spies are appropriately kinda secretive. The general assumption is you join the CIA, learn a “very specific set of skills” and become a suave cross between James Bond and Jason Bourne. It’s a pretty sexy job, more so than being an accountant.

But what do we actually know about spies that we haven’t learned from the film industry? The answer: jack shit.

Our culture’s obsession with this particular occupation is born from the silver screen, where spies are spectacularly attractive cold-blooded assassins who always get the girl. It’s a pretty badass way to go through life.

Yesterday, America and Russia renewed their hatred for each other when the FBI arrested 10 Russian spies living amongst us, primarily in the tri-state area. It’s like the cold war without the eminent threat of a nuclear holocaust. The comrades were sent here to infiltrate our policy-making circles and learn about our nuclear weapons. They even sent a hot red head to sleep her way through Manhattan’s elite, probably asking for our nuclear key codes during pillow talk. (I’ll be devastated if the entire film industry lied about key codes — they made for such great drama.)

The majority of these Russians were living the average American lifestyle. Gorging on McDonalds and Ho-Hos while seeing Avatar in 3D. Their neighbors were shocked when their Russian neighbors, who lived under fake last names such as Murphy, were escorted out of their houses in cuffs. Apparently no one was suspicious of the shipments of Stolichnaya coming more often than the mailman.

From the initial reports it doesn’t seem as though they were trained in martial arts nor could they kill with a single touch. They were boring spies, and this hurts the wonderful stereotype Hollywood has supplanted in our minds. We like debonair, bumbling, or even confused spies — anything but boring.

Here is a brief Hollywood history on the awesomeness of being a spy.

James Bond

Sean Connery became the symbol of masculinity because of his portrayal of British MI6 agent 007. He would routinely save the world, kill a bunch of bad guys, and demonstrate his sexual prowess on every piece of tail that crossed his path. Bond routinely wore tuxedos, which exudes class, and he got to drive an Aston Martin. 007 is without a doubt the modern ideal of a secret agent.

Spies Like Us

In the 1980s there wasn’t a better actor at playing a suave klutz than Chevy Chase. In fact, he became one of the most famous comedians of the decade because of that ability. He played a bumbling patriarch in Vacation, a bumbling journalist in Fletch, and a bumbling golfer in Caddyshack. Teaming Chase up with Dan Aykroyd in a bumbling spy flick seemed logical. They are dumped in Russia as decoys and miraculously evade Russian traps to inevitably save the world, and have sex with the Russian operatives.

The Jason Bourne films

Basically the American version of James Bond, with amnesia, more grit, and awesome action sequences. The Jason Bourne movies demonstrate the government abusing the their power by creating killing machines. Until Bourne develops a conscience and goes rouge. Of course, his tormented soul and mysterious nature makes him immediately attractive to his female companions. Commence sex with different partner for each of three films.

The Man Who Knew Too Little

Alfred Hitchcock owns the spy genre, similarly to how he dominates the thriller and horror genres. In 1956 he re-made The Man Who Knew Too Much, where Jimmy Stewart got tangled up in an assassination plot while on vacation in Morocco. In 1997 the blissfully stupid Bill Murray played a modern day Stewart in the The Man Who Knew Too Little. Murray thinks he’s playing along with actors when he is actually diffusing an assassination plot. Oh yeah, there is a girl involved. He woos her.


Imagine if Jason Bourne retired and his daughter was kidnapped and sold into human sex trade. He’d be angry and would most likely murder anyone that stood in his path. That’s basically the plot of Taken, with Liam Neeson killing his way through Paris instead of Matt Damon. He gets the girl at the end as well, except the girl is his daughter so the whole sex thing would be weird.

North By Northwest

Before George Clooney there was Cary Grant, the All-American, charming, good-looking, and well-dressed actor that men wanted to be like and women wanted to be with. This Hitchcock masterpiece of mistaken identity takes Grant’s advertising executive character on a wild chase from New York to Mount Rushmore. Grant is mistaken for a government agent and Hitchcockian suspense ensues. He also probably has sex with Eva Marie Saint on a train in one of the best sexual innuendos in film history.

Mission Impossible

Wanna know what’s really cool? When secret agents get double and triple crossed. It’s even cooler if that agent is Tom Cruise at the peak of his acting career. Mission Impossible also marks the moment when Cruise’s career made its shift into being an action star and when he begins to be taken less and less seriously. What happens when an impossible mission gets compromised? Tom Cruise has sex with Emmanuelle Beart.

Austin Powers

The international man of mystery is a complete parody of the James Bond series. Mike Myers plays an utterly unattractive British secret agent who lacks charm or dental hygiene, yet he is just as successful as 007 with the ladies and evil doers. All of the fun of the Bond films without the seriousness.

What did we learn? Being a spy most likely isn’t as awesome as Hollywood has made us believe. You don’t drive Aston Martins, register your hands as lethal weapons, or get laid. Thanks Russia for killing our dreams (and for trying to infiltrate our government like Kevin Costner in No Way Out).