The Spy (miniseries)

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The Spy
Espionage thriller
Created byGideon Raff
Based on
L'espion qui venait d'Israël
  • Uri Dan
  • Yeshayahu Ben Porat
Directed byGideon Raff
Music byGuillaume Roussel
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes6 (list of episodes)
Executive producersGideon Raff
Sacha Baron Cohen
ProducerAlain Goldman
Running time47–62 minutes
Production companiesLegende Films
Original release
NetworkOCS (France)
Netflix (international)
ReleaseSeptember 6, 2019 (2019-09-06)

The Spy is a French English-language espionage television miniseries, created and directed by Gideon Raff, based on the life of Israel's top Mossad spy Eli Cohen, who is portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen. The series is a production by French company Légende Entreprises for Canal+ and Netflix. OCS is airing the show in France and Netflix is streaming the show internationally outside France.[1][2][3] The six-episode miniseries, released on September 6, 2019, on Netflix, was inspired by real-life events. It is based on the book L'espion qui venait d'Israël (English: The Spy Who Came from Israel), written by Uri Dan and Yeshayahu Ben Porat.

The series has received "generally favorable reviews" according to Metacritic, with Baron Cohen's performance being praised. However, the series has been criticized for lapses in historical accuracy. There is no independent verification about whom Cohen met with in the Syrian elite while working undercover in Buenos Aires or Damascus.[4][5] At the 77th Golden Globe Awards, Baron Cohen received a nomination for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film.

The series was mainly filmed in Casablanca.


The real-life Eli Cohen

The miniseries follows the exploits of Eli Cohen, a Mossad spy. The story takes place during the years leading to the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and Syria.[6] It follows Cohen's past in Egypt as an army reject, to his infiltration of the Syrian Ministry of Defense.[7] He assumes the identity of Kamel Amin Thaabet and establishes himself in Syrian high society. After having befriended people who would eventually take over Syria,[8] Cohen is appointed as the country's Deputy Defense Minister and becomes a close confidant to the future president Amin al-Hafiz.[9]



No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date [13]
1"The Immigrant"Gideon RaffGideon RaffSeptember 6, 2019 (2019-09-06)
Eliahu Cohen, a department store employee, is recruited by Mossad for a covert mission in Syria. He assumes the identity of Kamel Amin Thaabet and begins his training. Eli's wife, Nadia, becomes suspicious of his actions but eventually supports him. Eli arrives in Buenos Aires and immerses himself in his new identity, building relationships within the Arab community. As tensions escalate between Israel and Syria, Eli's mission gains urgency. He undergoes surveillance and testing to prove his abilities. Despite the risks, Eli remains dedicated to his mission.
2"What's New, Buenos Aires?"Gideon RaffGideon RaffSeptember 6, 2019 (2019-09-06)
In Argentina to establish a cover, Cohen masquerades as Kamal Amin Thaabeth, an unmarried import-exporter of Syrian descent and socializes with Syrian businessmen. Cohen is supported in Buenos Aires by Julia, a female agent who gets Cohen an invitation to a party at the Syrian embassy. Through local Syrian contacts, Cohen is introduced to a high-ranking diplomat and future potential Syrian leader, General Amin al-Hafiz. Seeing classified documents on General al-Hafiz's desk, Cohen instinctively breaks in to the office to photograph the documents. Cohen and Julia fight and kill a Syrian bodyguard who was tracking him. Peleg reports to Shimoni that Cohen is too impulsive and should be recalled, but Shimoni likes the positive operational reports and overrules Peleg. Against orders to go to the Syrian embassy, Cohen delivers gifts to the General and his wife, and obtains a necessary letter of commendation for entry into Syria. After Nadia gives birth to Sophia, Eli returns to Israel and expresses reservation about continuing the operation.
3"Alone in Damascus"Gideon RaffGideon RaffSeptember 6, 2019 (2019-09-06)
Cohen resumes the operation and receives espionage equipment from his handlers in Zurich. En route to Syria, he befriends Sheik Majid al-Ard who unknowingly helps him enter the country. Cohen finds an apartment near the Second Bureau in Damascus. Shimoni and the Mossad team are thrilled to have landed an agent in Damascus, as Cohen builds up his business cover. Using his import-export business as a front, he quickly begins to deliver valuable intel back to Israel. Peleg is concerned about getting Cohen back alive as Peleg expresses remorse for a star agent he lost in Jordan, who had similar qualities to Cohen. Cohen befriends Ma'azi Zaher al-Din, nephew of the commander-in-chief of the Syrian Army. Back in Israel, Nadia struggles with loneliness without Eli.
4"The Odd Couples"Gideon RaffGideon Raff & Max PerrySeptember 6, 2019 (2019-09-06)
Cohen joins a street rally to celebrate a Syrian victory against the Israelis at the Golan Heights, but is told later by Ma'azi that the victory announcement was propaganda as the Syrians were defeated in their own surprise attack. Cohen and Ma'azi visit a Syrian military zone and meet Colonel Sharif Hatoum, local commander of the Syrian defense. Colonel Hatoum gives Cohen a tour of the hidden underground bunkers at the Golan Heights, overlooking Lake Tiberias. In Israel, Nadia has trouble coping with the challenges of single parenthood. Cohen grows closer to Ma'azi and Cohen is introduced to Ma'azi's uncle, General Ad-Din. Overhearing an imminent attack, Cohen covertly sends a message to the Israeli Defense Forces through contact with a farmer at the border, while evading Syrian soldiers. Peleg devotes so much time helping Nadia she begins to doubt his motives. Back in Damascus, Cohen sends information about the Syrian military capabilities to Israel. He is taken to a secret location where he meets Michel Aflaq, leader of the Ba'ath Movement and his earlier contact from Argentina, General Amin al-Hafiz.
5"Fish Gotta Swim"Gideon RaffGideon Raff & Max PerrySeptember 6, 2019 (2019-09-06)
Instructed by General al-Hafiz, Cohen invites General Ad-Din to a lavish party at Cohen's apartment, which becomes a cover for General al-Hafiz to successfully conduct a bloody coup d'etat of President Nazim al-Qudsi. After General al-Hafiz assumes power, Cohen attends several social events with high-ranking Syrian leadership. Cohen passes photos to Mossad of General al-Hafiz talking to Mohammed bin Laden. Following orders from Peleg, Cohen asks George Seif, the new Minister of Information, about bin Laden. General al-Hafiz arranges for Cohen to talk with bin Laden, who asks Cohen for help smuggling unspecified equipment into Syria. Eli and Nadia struggle with their separate lives. Suidani catches Cohen in George Seif's office and brings him to General al-Hafiz's office, where General al-Hafiz asks Cohen to be the Deputy Minister of Defense.
6"Home"Gideon RaffGideon Raff & Max PerrySeptember 6, 2019 (2019-09-06)
Nadia talks with an official at the Syrian embassy in Paris after travelling there with Peleg to plead for Cohen's life. Months earlier, Cohen makes a secret visit home and meets his children for the first time. Eli's brother Maurice pleads for Eli to quit and stay home. Cohen struggles with returning to civilian life in Israel, the anxiety of managing his contrasting dual personalities and the possibility that he will have to return to Syria for an indefinite period. A high level Prime Ministerial meeting with the Ministry of Defense and Mossad discuss a plan to attack Syria's water diversion operation and discuss the benefits of having an agent as Deputy Minister of Defense. Returning to Syria, he accepts the position as Deputy Minister of Defense, but aided by Soviet counterespionage Suidani catches Cohen in the act of sending messages to Israel. Despite international pleas for leniency, he is publicly executed in Marjeh Square. Pre-credit text suggests that Cohen's intelligence helped shorten the Six Day War in 1967.


The show was filmed in Morocco, Hungary, and the UK. Filming was said to not be possible in Syria due to the Syrian Civil War.[14]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an 86% approval rating based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 6.97/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Though at times stodgy, The Spy's exploration of a real-life spy remains engaging thanks to a moving performance from Sacha Baron Cohen."[15] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100 based on 16 critic reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[16]

Nick Allen of gave the series 3 out of 4 stars, largely praising the excitement the series builds and that it adds a new dimension to the spy genre. Allen writes, " the end of episode one, “The Spy” takes off as Eli transforms into Kamel while delivering a monologue to the camera—Kamel's life story—and the series casts a spell, showing a chameleonic actor playing a chameleonic character."[17]

Sacha Baron Cohen's performance has been well received. Rolling Stone's Alan Sepinwall writes, "But Baron Cohen couldn’t have found a role more well suited to his gifts and career to date. The Spy is a thriller played entirely straight, but it also feels like Baron Cohen’s persona with vastly higher stakes."[18]

Analysts have noted questions of historical accuracy of some of the events presented, as is the case with most historical dramas. According to former Syrian President Amin al-Hafiz, he never met Cohen in Argentina, much less befriended him, and the office of "Deputy Defense Minister" did not even exist in Syria at the time.[4] The position of Chief Advisor to the defense minister did exist – a position in which Cohen claimed to have served.[19]


  1. ^ Roxborough, Scott (March 1, 2017). "Netflix Boards BBC Drama 'Troy' From 'Night Manager' Writer". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
  2. ^ "Netflix Invests Nearly $2 Billion in European Productions, Promises More". Variety. March 1, 2017. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Andreeva, Nellie (April 11, 2018). "Sacha Baron Cohen To Star As Eli Cohen In Netflix Limited Series 'The Spy'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Moubayed, Sami (September 21, 2019). "Why 'The Spy' is a blend of fiction and fable". Gulf News.
  5. ^ "Eli Cohen's daughter lukewarm on 'The Spy,' but likes Sacha Baron Cohen's acting". Times of Israel. September 8, 2019. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  6. ^ D'Addario, Daniel (September 6, 2019). "TV Review: Netflix's 'The Spy' With Sacha Baron Cohen". Variety. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  7. ^ Patten, Max (September 15, 2019). "Israeli espionage thriller 'The Spy' sticks to the script — with one notable exception". The Cavalier Daily. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  8. ^ Decis, Axel (September 2, 2019). "Sacha Baron Cohen Gets Serious in The Spy". Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  9. ^ "Eli Cohen: Israel's Legendary Spy, Now on Netflix". The Jewish Voice. September 16, 2019. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  10. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (April 20, 2018). "Noah Emmerich To Star In Netflix Limited Series 'The Spy' With Sacha Baron Cohen". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  11. ^ "Alexander Siddig Co-Stars in 'The Spy' with Sacha Baron Cohen {EXCLUSIVE}". SidCity. June 16, 2018. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
  12. ^ "Marc Maurille website" (in French). July 3, 2018. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  13. ^ "The Spy – Listings". The Futon Critic. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  14. ^ Hennigan, Adrian (September 5, 2019). "'The Spy': Netflix, Sacha Baron Cohen and the Mossad. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?". Haaretz. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  15. ^ "The Spy: Limited Series". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  16. ^ "The Spy - TV Show Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  17. ^ "The Spy". RogerEbert. Retrieved October 5, 2019.
  18. ^ "'The Spy' Review: Sacha Baron Cohen Goes Undercover — This Time Not for Laughs". Rolling Stone. September 3, 2019. Retrieved October 5, 2019.
  19. ^ Ahronheim, Anna (April 15, 2019). "Rumors fly that body of legendary Israeli spy Eli Cohen was found". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved October 1, 2019.

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