Spy For Hire


Spies are some of the most exciting movie characters to watch. Seeing Ethan Hunt soar from rooftop to rooftop or Jason Bourne thwart the CIA’s schemes is a lot of fun. But some spies are all about the theatrics. At the end of the day, would Bond actually be able to hold down a job? M, for one, seems to find him a nuisance. As someone who’s had to hire and fire people in the past, I’m judging a handful of candidates on their performance, ingenuity and efficiency to see who’s the most employable.

James Bond


Pros – Charming, witty, and dressed for the job. Expert gambler, weapons master, hand-to-hand combat proficient. He stops at nothing to get the bad guy, and often takes out a bunch of evil henchmen in the meantime. Knows how to use each of Qs revolutionary gadgets without referring to the manual.

Cons – Innocents occasionally caught in crossfire – often the girl he’s taking along for the ride. All the gadgets he didn’t learn how to use end up lost or destroyed. Ignores direct orders to follow his whims, which tends to lead to a whole lot of damage to whatever building/city/country he’s in at the time. Drinks on the job. Tell everyone his real name.

Physical – 4

Mental – 4

Obedience – 2

Dedication – 4

Score: 14

Harry Tasker


Pros – Smooth and deadly – just as comfortable at a dinner party as in a war zone. Can take down an entire terrorist organisation while maintaining his family’s safety. Built like the Terminator.

Cons – Looks like the Terminator – catches attention wherever he goes. Horrible at keeping his secret life a secret. Uses company resources to kidnap and interrogate his own wife. Doesn’t leave a building until it’s burned/in the process of burning to the ground.

Physical – 5

Mental – 3

Obedience – 2

Dedication – 3

Score: 13

Ethan Hunt


Pros – Born leader. Takes the time to prepare for a mission instead of just rushing in. Excels in all forms of combat and dialect. Really good at running. Just look at him go!

Cons – Thinks he’s in the circus – if something doesn’t look cool, it’s not worth doing. Doesn’t cause a whole lot of damage, but does little to prevent it (refer to his recent Kremlin mission).

Physical – 4

Mental – 4

Obedience – 3

Dedication – 4

Score: 15

Jason Bourne


Ethan made it look so easy…

Pros – Tough, smart, unmatched awareness. Human weapon, unparalleled physical combat. Master of all weapons and speaks a handful of languages. Expert at blending in – the enemy will only find him if he wants to be found.

Cons – Doesn’t remember he’s a spy. Upon working it out, does everything he can to get out of the game. Loyal only to himself. May have once followed orders, but now makes his own rules, and kills other spies. Broke the cardinal rule and fell in love, with disastrous consequences. Pretty selfish in general.

Physical – 5

Mental – 4

Obedience – 1

Dedication – 1

Score: 11

George Smiley


Pros – Cleverest man in the Circus (not the same kind of circus as Mr. Hunt). Manages to survive at least forty years of service. Shows utterly loyalty – willing to come out of retirement to help the organisation that forced him into it. Hell of a memory for an old man.

Cons – Hell of an old man – he’ll help fix your problem, just don’t interrupt his swimming pool activities. Not much of a field operative.

Physical – 1

Mental – 5

Obedience – 5

Dedication – 5

Score: 16

Austin Powers


Pros – Able to turn a phrase – he’ll keep you entertained by the water cooler. Doesn’t mind beating on a midget.

Cons – Lets his mojo run the show. Didn’t know his wife was a robot until the honeymoon. Only has one nemesis, but can’t seem to end his tyranny. Any other bad guys in the world are handled by the real agents.

Physical – 2

Mental – 2

Obedience – 3

Dedication – 3

Score: 10

Winner – George Smiley


Nothing wrong with a self-plug right?*

These guys don’t land a job in the first place without some expertise. Though Powers only just snuck in with a pass, so he clearly knew someone on the board.

Smiley may not be the most exciting fellow of the bunch, but his willingness to buckle down and get the job done seems to make him the most capable spy of the lot. I haven’t read the John Le Carre books, so these stats are based on his performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. With this in mind, he’d most likely be an even more capable employee as a younger chap. So to hold his own with the younger guys is impressive.

Similarly, Bourne was probably a great spy at first. But this isn’t a casual KFC job you can drop when you realise you don’t want to be flipping wings your whole life.

All said and done, if you’re starting a spy agency, this is the guy you want:


If you like the things I write about, we’d probably be good friends. You could find me in any random London cafe most days, or on Twitter if you prefer that kind of thing.

*My love of movie and TV also seeps into my art.

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  1. I chuckled quite a bit at “tells everyone his real name” – still chuckling actually.

    Great list! I’ve not seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy yet – mainly because I have friends telling me it’s incredibly boring. Though, I question their judgement on a regular basis.

    1. In this case they’re kind of right. It’s not a bad film at all, but it is a bit too slow to maintain the drama. Gary Oldman’s performance is really what makes it worth a watch. I remember him saying he thought of Smiley as a turtle – only ever showing a small part of what’s underneath. It’s subtle and powerful all at once.

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