Set in Tel Aviv in the early 1960s, The Spy is a Netflix mini-series that tells the true story of Eli Cohen, one of the most decorated spies in the history of Israel.
Eli, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, leads a quiet and predictable existence spending his days between his work as a clerk and his wife Nadia.
Being Egyptian-born and the son of two Syrian Jews, Eli struggles to thrive in a society that does not seem to accept him and secretly suffers living the life of an “average man”.
In the background, Israel’s tensions with the surrounding Arab countries intensify by the day, especially with Syria.
The turning point for Eli arrives in 1961, when he gets chosen by Mossad agent Dan Peleg, masterfully interpreted by Noah Emmerich, to become a spy for the Israeli intelligent service.
Thus, Eli becomes Kamel Amin Thaabet, a wealthy Syrian businessman who emigrated to Argentina when he was a child and desperately wants to return to Syria to expand his business.
After arriving in Damascus, Kamel establishes close ties with the highest leaders of the Syrian government and army, slowly starting to reveal political strategies and military secrets to Mossad.
But the stakes start to get higher and the risks of getting exposed multiply by the day. Eli ends up identifying with Kamel, losing touch with reality and suffering extreme consequences.
The Spy pushes the viewer to reflect on an important piece of Middle Eastern history while offering interesting insights into the psychology of what it means to have a job like Eli’s.
Episode after episode we witness how Eli erases everything from his life and starts thinking, behaving and acting like Kamel. Driven by total dedication to the Mossad cause and by a very strong desire for personal affirmation, Eli ends up forgetting who he really is, as well as the very purpose of his existence.
Special praise (and welcome surprise) of the series is the performance of Baron Cohen. While normally seen in exaggerated comedy roles, he is perfectly comfortable playing the role of the enigmatic agent.