“Do you consider yourself a patriot?”
Israeli-based spy thrillers have yielded some of the best results in the genre, especially Steven Spielberg’s Munich. When it comes to shows, the closest The Spy comes to is Homeland, albeit the latter has more action. Interestingly, The Spy is produced by Homeland producers itself. The Americans, Killing Eve, Jack Ryan, Person Of Interest would fit into the same genre with a slightly different angle.
Netflix introduces this hour-long six episodes miniseries hardly ten days since the release of its trailer. The chronologically structured plot is based on the life of one of the top Mossad’s spies Eli Cohen, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. It follows his story between the years 1961 and 1965 where Cohen worked in Syria as a spy.
In an era of Cold War, Syria was emerging as a threat to the state of Israel. After pleading for help and raising concerns in front of international communities, Israel learnt the harsh truth- no one will fight battles for you. Mossad, tasked with the urgency of recruiting agents against the ever-increasing hostility in the Arab world, turns to its civilians with instincts. Cohen, a desk agent had been rejected twice before being finally inducted in the training program. Being adept at typing and possessing skills to adapt in any pressurised situation, he passed the training bootcamp with flying colors. Soon, he gets the assignment- to serve as the sole spy in hostile Syria. Syria and Israel have fought wars and had countless skirmishes for the area of Golan Heights- which houses the only freshwater source for Israel, the Lake Tiberias.
The web series achieves its feat by showcasing Cohen as clueless but as calm as the viewers. Rather than introducing upfront, Cohen learns about the various characters based on his interaction during his stint in Syria and not simple sticking to the narrative provided by Mossad. With his firm posture, a mustache and a sense of being a rich Arab living in Syria, Sacha Cohen has handled Eli’s character with finesse In his mission in Syria, he would interact with various Syrian political and military leaders to establish connect. It is absolutely surprising to see someone who has starred in comedy dramas like Borat, The Dictator, Bruno takes the role of a spy in the 1960s.
The sound of typewriter clicking, the buzz of Morse code encoder, the whizzing of telegram, the dull color palette highlights the impact director Gideon Raf wants to create in the monotonous atmosphere of the Arab world and the serious nature of the series. Eli, a married man with two kids, finds himself at the center of a battle. The battle is inside him, in fact, it’s a battle which highlights the repercussions of being an agent in a hostile country for a long time. He’s haunted by his Arab personality which tries to take over his real one. His visions, his dreams, his accent, his behaviour have all been modified to suit this Arab personality. Each day he feels that he is gaining freedom and life for his country by providing secrets to Mossad but he is also losing himself, his identity, his freedom to be a family man for the same. And by the time we hit the sixth episode, one realizes that everything comes at a price It is just a matter of how hard big a price one has to pay. His colleagues, his mentor, his wife, his children, his parents have to pay the price for a path Eli Cohen had chosen. Be prepared for a wonderful show with a finale that will leave you stunned.
The Spy premiered as under the radar spy drama on Netflix, but it deserves to be seen- for it is a caricature of a tense and unpredictable spy-world reality, far away from the fictional edge of the seat spy action thrillers.