(Release Info London schedule; December 26th, 2019, Vue Cinéma, O2 Centre, 255 Finchley Rd, London NW3 6LU, United Kingdom, 2:00 pm)
"Spies In Disguise"
Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo is forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise; transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic pigeon. Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril.
Brimming with confidence and swagger, Lance is the world’s greatest spy, the best of the best of international espionage agents, Lance is all sharp angles, tall, elegantly attired, exuding coolness. Everyone knows his name, and he's often greeted by his fans with applause. He’s also used to being armed with the most state-of-the-art, cool spy gadgetry, including his cutting-edge two-seater sports vehicle, 'The Audi RSQ E-tron'. In this way, Lance and all the other agents are dependent on the technical wizards behind-the-scenes who design these gadgets for 'The Agency'. One of these tekkies is awkward yet lovable Walter Beckett. Walter is the opposite of Lance, short and appealingly geeky, dressed more for comfort and practicality than style; a genius, not an athlete. Where most of these gadgets designed by 'The Agency' are intentionally destructive and deadly, Walter, who graduated 'MIT' at age 15, has a different point of view, and designs gadgets that are completely effective, but cause no harm. For example, when tasked to create a grenade, he invents a device that explodes with glitter and creates a visual of an adorable kitten. Walter understands that seeing a kitten releases serotonin, causing the viewer to feel happy, reduce aggression and become distracted from the situation. Much safer than a grenade that blows things up. While Lance believes in fighting fire with fire, Walter believes that type of thinking just gets everyone burned. If Walter could save the world with a hug, he would. Friendless save for his faithful pet pigeon 'Lovey' (Karen Gillan), Walter’s co-workers at 'The Agency' refer to him as a weirdo, but he was raised by his late police officer mother to believe in himself and his unconventional ideas. Together, Walter and his Mom Wendy (Rachel Brosnahan), proudly called themselves 'Team Weird'. Lance and Walter both work at 'The Agency', headed by Joy Jenkins (Reba McEntire) who Lance affectionately calls 'Joyless'. She’s a pretty tough nut. Harsh and demanding, she doesn’t have many soft spots, but one of them is for Lance.
Her devotion is tested when 'Internal Affairs' agent Marcy Kappel (Rashida Jones) reveals evidence that shows Lance has stolen a cataclysmically deadly drone from 'The Agency’s' covert weapons lab. The truth is that the weapon, 'The M-9 Assassin', is really in the hands of supervillain Keller 'Robohand' Killian (Ben Mendelsohn), disguised as Lance. A criminal whose real identity is unknown to global authorities, Killian’s missing right hand has been replaced by a robotic claw, hence his nickname. Joy can’t believe that Lance would turn, but Marcy, aided by her video surveillance and analysis agent Eyes (Karen Gillan) and audio analysis expert Ears (DJ Khaled), is determined to have him arrested. Lance, knowing there's a bad guy out there, needs to go rogue to stop him. Eluding capture by 'Internal Affairs', Lance is able to escape from 'The Agency' headquarters and, remembering Walter saying that he could make someone disappear, heads to Walter’s house seeking this new technology. Walter has been working on an invention called bio-dynamic concealment, an elixir that will make whoever ingests it turn into something that most people ignore, allowing them to disappear in plain sight. When Lance unintentionally drinks the formula, he's transformed into a pigeon. Lance, who always viewed pigeons as rats with wings, is horrified and demands that Walter unbird him immediately. But Walter hasn’t yet cracked a formula to reverse his concealment invention. Trapped in the body of a pigeon, our super suave spy struggles to adjust to his new body. What’s more, this guy who’s always flied solo finds himself suddenly part of a flock, surrounded by a trio of other pigeons. And Walter, who may not be built for action in the field, ends up out there, while he desperately tries to find the antidote to the elixir. As they learn to work together in order to stop 'Robohand' from turning the Assassin on mankind, Lance slowly begins to open himself up to a whole new, weird approach to saving the world from Walter.
In addition to being a spy movie, “Spies In Disguise" is a buddy comedy that derives much of it's humor from the differences between it's two main characters. Lance and Walter are a classic odd couple. Lance is a pretty straightforward character. He’s self-confident, he likes being in the spotlight, he likes being the hero, and he likes the accolades. But he’s pretty full of himself, so there’s definitely a balance to be struck there. It’s a special kind of charisma that can carry that off, and you look up chqarisma in the dictionary. Lance is built for the world of espionage: He’s 6 ft. 5 in., 230 lbs. of pure muscle, with broad shoulders, a narrow core and extremely long legs. He’s sleek, sophisticated, strong and athletic and he looks like he could take on anything. That means straight lines, broad shapes, clean. He's better than the best, he’s cool, he’s suave, he’s got swagger, he’s got all the great one-liners, and he’s the good guy. And then you’ve got the guy with the robot hand who’s leering and stands in the shadows and says horrible things and is violent. So you know he’s bad. Then as the movie goes on, the balance walks a delicate line, is to blur those edges, so that the hero’s flawed, he lacks empathy and employs violence.
Walter is a hard character to discover because the film wants to make sure the character is sincere. So it's really important that he's affirmational, so kids will go to see the film initially wanting to be like a Lance Sterling, but realizing that the hero is really inside them, like Walter Beckett. Walter’s a really smart dude so you never want him to feel goofy. But he's definitely out of his element in being out in the real world. He’s an academic, but he’s also very committed to those ideas and forceful but not aggressive the way Lance is. Walter is a really happy go lucky kid. He’s really positive, he’s really excited about using his brain for good and to make a difference in his workplace. And then he’s really excited by the idea of a challenge and a mission and going into the field. But what’s most endearing about him is that he’s trying to change 'The Agency’s' way of thinking and instead of blowing people up and killing people he’s trying to make everyone be happy and positive and safe. So it’s quite nice. Walter has a smaller build, 5 ft. 4 in. and is very wiry. He works hard and feels unappreciated and underestimated, so his posture is somewhat slumped. But he’s full of naïve optimism. He's a dreamer that thinks if you can just come up with the right sort of ways, we can do things differently.
A man turns into a pigeon, which is insane. What's genius about the conceit of the script, is that pigeons are actually amazing creatures, and they're the perfect disguise! They’re in every city around the world. No one pays attention to them. Nobody even knows that they’re there. So they’re hiding in plain sight. Because they've eyes on the side of their head, they can see in 360 degrees, which means that at any given time, they can see your face and their butt. And you can’t sneak up on them. They’re one of the fastest birds in the world. But because they’re so fast, they see at a faster rate of speed than we do, so everything to them feels slow motion. We would always refer to that as 'Pigeon Bullet Time'. They see 'UV' light, bands of light that we can’t see with the human eye. On the surface, it seems like a joke, but really this is the best cover for a spy. No one knows you’re there. You’ve got all these built-in gadgets. It’s actually genius, as are all of Walter’s other gadgets. For example, Walter develops a personal protection device called the 'Inflatable Hug'. It envelopes whoever is holding it in a cushy bubble to avoid harm. Another is the multi-pen. While it looks like a traditional multi-colored pen, it actually has functions such as the ability to shoot serious string like 'Silly String' but only serious to tie up bad guys. It can spray a serum, complete with a hint of lavender that will make even the biggest baddy reveal the truth. It can even shoot a non-lethal electrical pulse that causes whoever is on the receiving end to lose all muscle control and collapse into a rubbery mess.
One of the cool differences about the two characters is that Lance is obviously so into action and beating people up and fighting and being a super spy. Whereas Walter is very much more the guy who wants to help people and, yes, get the job done, but do it in a way with no casualties and he has this one device called 'The Kitty Glitter' which basically explodes glitter everywhere and calms people down to the point where they don’t want to do bad stuff anymore. Whereas Lance just wants a grenade. One of the major differences between Lance and Walter is their approach to the job. Lance flies alone, but the main reason for his desire to stay solo is his concern that anyone else around him might get hurt. Walter, on the other hand, is a firm believer in teamwork, something Lance is forced to accept when he finds himself transformed into a pigeon and is surrounded by three other pigeons known as 'The Flock'. Lovey, Walter’s faithful pet and the smartest of the three, is instantly taken by Lance’s pigeon magnetism, and can’t resist the urge to constantly try to get closer to him. Fanboy’s awkward movements set him apart from the other birds, but nothing will stop him from trying to imitate the suave stylings of his hero, Lance. Walter believes that if we’re the good guys, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and do things a good way. In Lance’s world, at first, that seems weird. But then Lance starts to realize that maybe his uncompromising version of good and bad in the world isn’t the only version.
As in all classic spy films, there needed to be a formidable villain, an antagonist to set the plot in motion and challenge, but it's important that there be real world motivations for his actions. 'Robohand' is a mysterious and terrifying villain, and it's important to hold back a lot of who he's and why he's. There’s definitely a history with our hero, Lance Sterling. There’s a revenge plot that he’s taking on. The film wants it to feel scary and menacing, so that when we reveal who he's, it’s not just revealing his plan, but a reason for what he does. In order for there to be a Lance Sterling you’ve got to have a Killian. And Killian is the other end of the spectrum of good guys/bad guys. Killian is a super villain. He’s a guy that can and will take down enormous body counts and damage. These are the old paradigms of what good guys and bad guys look like, and they’re very pervasive and they have a great influence in the way that we think about ourselves, and crucially in the way we think about others. That’s all sort of 'Cold War' and 'Pre-Cold War' ideas and notions, and they worked for a long time. Underworld hacker Katsu Kimura (Masi Oka) is the shady character responsible for stealing 'The Assassin' and selling it to Killian. Katsu and Lance have a history together. So he’s not surprised when Lance invades his hideout when he’s doing his deal with Killian, he's probably him. Even though Lance always wins, Katsu has always been able to get away and keep on doing what he does. Physically, Katsu’s a massive giant, very imposing. But he doesn’t use force. He doesn’t have to, he has his Yakuza minions that do it for him. He uses his clever intelligence and his wits and technological skills to do his dirty work.
Another obstacle for Lance and Walter is Marcy, "The Internal Affairs' agent on their trail. Marcy’s strong, she’s capable and throughout most of the movie, she’s very definite about what she thinks is right or wrong, but then that strict viewpoint starts to soften a little bit. She realizes she has to open herself up to all the shades of gray in between right and wrong. Marcy’s a very by-the-book, no-nonsense woman. She’s like Tommy Lee Jones in "The Fugitive": on a mission, straightforward, persevering, with only one thing important to her, which is to get Lance Sterling and solve this case. Whereas Lance is all about sports cars and tuxedos and flashy, she’s all about getting the job done and doing it efficiently. She’s not into him from the beginning. At the same time, Marcy’s a very skilled negotiator. And when she needs to be, she can be empathetic and calm and communicate in a way that’s actually going to help the situation. She isn’t hot-headed. Joy Jenkins (Reba McEntire) is Lance and Walter’s boss at 'The Agency'. She’s tough. And to have a name like Joy, you would think she’d be bubbly and animated and not, not at all. She’s very deadpan. Not much melody in her voice. So her nickname 'Joyless' fits her really well. She's such an effervescent personality that even in a character who’s supposed to be dour at times, you still really feel this fun connection to her. She really brought that sort of undercurrent of charisma to a character who could be pretty flat otherwise.
Wendy Beckett, Walter's mom, is a police officer who’s out there facing the hard realities of the world that we live in on a daily basis. At the same time, she needs to appreciate how special Walter is and how important it's that he stay optimistic and true to his beliefs, no matter what other people say. Wendy obviously loves Walter very, very much. And Walter’s kind of a weird kid. He’s into stuff that other kids his age aren’t, and sometimes that’s hard for him. And while Wendy is sometimes annoyed by his inventions and how they interfere with their everyday life, she supports him wholeheartedly, and encourages him to be himself all the time, in all of his weirdness. Even if that means that other kids make fun of him, she tells him that the things that make him weird right now are going to be his superpower as he grows. That's one of the most important lessons that she teaches him that carries through the film. Everyone’s weirdness is their superpower. Everyone’s weird in their own way. There’s no such thing as normal. And it can be so hard when you’re growing up and, and everyone’s striving for this idea of normalcy that just doesn’t exist, to let your freak flag fly, to be yourself in the face of everything else. She only gets screen-time at the beginning, but we feel the effect of her character throughout the whole movie.
"Spies In Disguise" is a film that has it's own unique style, design and color palette. In paying homage to classic spy movies, the film creates all exotic globe-spanning locations from 'Washington, D.C.' to Japan to 'The Mayan Riviera' to 'The North Sea' while evoking a world that's very contemporary. The film’s cool spy base, in keeping with the whole idea of espionage where things are hidden before your eyes, is concealed under the reflection pool of 'The Washington Monument'. So it’s in sight, but never seen. The film developes a color language where warmer oranges and yellows represent teamwork and community. A warm shade of turquoise represents 'The Agency', whereas a cool shade of blue is isolating, which is why Lance’s tux is that color, he’s a man who flies solo. Red is an indicator for danger, so the first time we meet Kimura, he’s wearing a big silk red shirt and he’s in a red environment. Killian’s got an eye that goes red; 'The Assassin’s' drone has a red eye. Lance, who prefers to work alone, wants to be isolated, so he’s seen in single shots, carved out by light, or in focus with everything else in the frame out of focus. This way, the audience can see and feel the isolation he’s chosen. Whereas Walter is kept more engaged in the broader focus range and warmer, brighter light.
It's an animated spy comedy adventure set in the slick, high-octane, globe-trotting world of international espionage. The film has all the familiar elements of the genre; exotic international locales, dazzling cinematography, big action set pieces, futuristic gadgetry and a great score with a memorable theme. So if the film wants you to feel sad, you might not even notice that the clouds are overhead and it’s a little gray and the characters are a little glum and distant from each other. But when they’re happy, they’re together and they’re in the same frame and it’s a little sunnier out. "Spies In Disguise" teaches a good message to kids that violence isn’t the answer and friendship is more important than anything really.