The first thing that pops in my mind about Sacha Baron Cohen is ‘He is a brilliant comedian’ who has done quite several popular characters like (Bruno) the flamboyant gay Austrian fashion reporter, (Borat) the Jew-hating Kazak reporter and the wannabe gangster (Ali G). He has portrayed all the three characters on ‘Da Ali G Show.’
Now, seeing him taking up the role of a serious character is quite unbelievable.
Netflix’s The Spy is a six-part series that tells the life of Israeli spy named Eli Cohen directed by Gideon Raff. This is a real-life inspired story.
The series opens with flashing forward towards the end of the story, where secret agent Eli Cohen, who has been captured by the Syrian government and is forced to write a letter to his wife.
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But the interesting fact about that scene is Eli stops when he is about to sign his name and the old man saying, “My poor boy, you do not remember your name?”
Next, the story flashes back to six years showing who was Eli Cohen and how did he land the job of a ‘Spy.’
So, Eli Cohen, played by (Sacha Baron Cohen) was working as an accountant in a department store and was married to the beautiful Nadia.
Back then, Syria was bombing locations in northern Israel. The Mossad was looking for a secret agent who could be sent to Syria and gathered intel about what the Syrian government is up to.
Eli Cohen has applied to Mossad quite a couple of times, but finally, he got selected. So, Eli Cohen who was willing to do greater things in his life started his training of a secret agent.
Dan Peleg, a key member of the Mossad, trained him for the operation. In just six months, the Mossad was about to send Eli Cohen to Buenos Aires, where he can get to know someone who can infiltrate him to influential Syrian officials once he is in Damascus.
Here, Sacha Baron Cohen who played Israeli spy Eli Cohen has proved his metal in acting and showed to the world that he is not only a good comedian, but equally he can act anything.
His firm posture, accent, flamboyant image and above all his acting prowess captivate us (the audience) throughout the series.
Mossad agent Eli is a resourceful person who has curious ears and strong instinct. He is candid with his enemies but not overly candid which will make him a suspect. He pretends to be rich, warm and naturally drawn towards women and men but he is empty from inside.
He is charming, smooth and has a great sense of humor which he has used in winning some highly influential Syrian officials on his side.
He succeeded in collecting highly confidential intel for his country, leading to the Israeli government understand the politics of the Syrian government. He made friends with only them who can lead him to vital pieces of information.
Everyone was in awe of his charm, but he knew that there is no returning from here.
He kept working for months and years as a disguise in an Israeli agent. He had two identities. He is struggling with being an agent, away from his family, deception. He can’t recognize the true identity of himself when he is home in Israel with his family.
The narrative of Netflix’s The Spy is straightforward, to the point and predictable. Each scene is interconnected and cannot be missed. The psychology of Eli Cohen is becoming complex and intense as time passes.
From the beginning, it made us clear what had happened to Eli Cohen, his life, and his wife.
There is a beautiful relationship between Eli Cohen and his wife Nadia which has been shown in the story. How Nadia leaves love notes in random things of Eli to express her love.
But the bitter truth that Nadia has to endure. She didn’t even know what and where her husband is. Her life tossed up and down, leaving her alone and isolated with Eli serving his country.
The distance tears apart both. The scene when Eli came back home to his family, and his two daughters aren’t able to recognize him is hard to watch. In the story, Nadia played by Hadar Ratzon Rotem, is significant.
Her character showed the emotional complexities of Eli Cohen.
Sacha Baron Cohen made us feel how the life of a spy could be.
The flatness in the acting lies with the supporting cast, I believe. Several characters who has a significance in the story like Suidani (the security head of the Syrian Colonel Amin-al Hafez) who never trusted Eli from the beginning. He always had his eyes on him.
Dan Peleg (Mossad trainer) who has a conflicting sentiment about Eli and his wife. Then there is Colonel Amin al-Hafez, who considered Eli as his partner and discloses much crucial intel regarding Israeli planning.
The story is all about Eli Cohen. The director has given ample room to Sacha Baron Cohen to get infiltrate into the character of Eli Cohen. Thus, the supporting cast has little much to do.
The cinematography work is excellent. The choice of having scenes which are edited in grey and appeared as black and white has added great attention to detail and the intensity of the scenes.
Actor Sacha Baron does pull off the entire series on his shoulders. The ending shows how little much do we know about these heroic figures who have sacrificed themselves for their country.
Raff’s directorial ‘The Spy’ has done justice to the real-life story and leaves the audience wanting to view the next episode to know what Mossad agent Eli will do to succeed his mission.
So, Netflix’s The Spy is a must-watch series for Sacha Baron Cohen’s extraordinary work.