Sacha Baron Cohen may well have missed his calling as a dramatic actor if The Spy is anything to go by.
Familiar to us as Borat, and previously Ali G., he stars as Israel’s top Mossad spy in a new Netflix drama.
Created and directed by Gideon Raff (Prisoners of War, Homeland, Tyrant), this six part series series is based on the life of Eli Cohen, who undertook espionage work in Syria from 1961–1965.
Eli is recruited by military officer Amin Al-Hafz (Waleed Zuaiter) and American Dan Peleg (Noah Emmerich) to infiltrate Syrian authorities to learn their secrets and undermine attacks on Israel. To achieve such he must leave expectant wife Nadia (Hadar Ratzon Rotem) and assume the identity of a businessman, living under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabet in Argentina.
Eli is quite accomplished at assuming a double life, but it means excising both past and present, and cutting off all ties for the greater good. He soon charms his way into embassy circles in Argentina and then to Damascus, but there are a few close calls where Cohen (actor, given they both have the same surname) does his best James Bond work….
But while Eli over-commits to the role his handler Dan Peleg is worried he is too eager to please and may jeopardise years of work. Meanwhile there are growing issues back home surrounding Nadia.
The locations, costumes and period detail are outstanding in this series and there is a high degree of black and white cinematography, artfully brushed with painted hues. It certainly evokes an era. That said, I would have liked a little more tension than simply teasing a few close calls each episode.
Anything from Gideon Raff is worth serious consideration, and this is no exception but The Spy may well be remembered for reframing our perception of Sacha Baron Cohen as much more than an anarchic comedian.
The Spy is now screening on Netflix.