Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Spies? Uncovering the Appeal of Cinematic Secret Agents

Spy films have routinely titillated American audiences at least since the Cold War, and this year is no exception, with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., American Ultra, Agent 47, and Spectre all hitting theaters. What is it about the secret agent that charms us? Two of the summer spy blockbusters, the fifth Mission Impossible and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., releasing as they did back-to-back, tell us something about the mysterious appeal of spies.

Yes, some appeal lies in the glamorous popular Hollywood portrayal: Bond-like spies have no lack of money, fancy gadgets, and missions in exotic locales. U.N.C.L.E's Napoleon Solo is suave, womanizing, and witty, with government funds and gadgetry at his disposal, and with the courage and cleverness to get out of anything. Mission Impossible 5’s Ethan Hunt likewise makes full use of over-the-top high-tech gadgets in elaborate chase scenes and break-ins, to out-wit the villains in dazzling European and colorful Middle Eastern cities.

But beyond the superficial 007-like qualities, secret agents appeal to American audiences on another level, too. Living in a world where justice is often hampered by bureaucracy, we like the idea of someone who is not bound by the traditional rules of operation; someone who can move outside the strict public structures of good and evil; someone belonging neither to the military nor the police and exempt from their rules, yet holding all their power and expertise.  (more...)

Spywork that'll never get the Hollywood treatment:

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