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Monday, August 31, 2015

Movie Review- The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer get acquainted in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


Most people don't realize this but, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is based off of an old TV show from the 1960's. Movies like Mission: Impossible and Dark Shadows, have roots from that decade as well. Even though it's so difficult to look up anything nowadays, most don't take the time nor care to research a film before actually seeing it. That's why I'm here, so you can flock to your local theaters ignorance free, based off of my cinematic wisdom and tireless efforts with a smart phone. U.N.C.L.E. was on for four seasons from 1964 to 1968. Some of the show's characters and concepts were designed by James Bond creator, Ian Fleming. It starred Robert Vaughn (Superman III) and David McCallum ("Ducky" from NCIS). The show's main theme was composed by movie maestro legend, Jerry Goldsmith (Chinatown, Alien, Gremlins, multiple Star Trek projects). It was well received from viewers and critics. That however was short lived. Because of the network's need to compete with the comedy shows on and around the same time slot as U.N.C.L.E., the show was eventually adjusted into having a campy tone that alienated many of its fans. Although canceled so early on, the show has influenced and been referenced many times in popular culture over the last four decades. And to this day, I still have not seen a single episode. Bite me, I've been busy.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as a full length motion picture, is actually a good idea. There's plenty of signature styles and characters carried over from the show, to make it stand out amongst the multitude of spy films lately (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Spy, Mission: Impossible- Rouge Nation, Spectre, Bridge of Spies). First off, it's set in the 60's, post Cuban Missile Crisis. That time period keeps this film from looking similar to this year's modern day spy flicks. Secondly, this movie does a good job of balancing humor and action. There are some goofy moments to be sure, but it adds to the overall fun and never feels campy. Director Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes), brings his patented, upbeat rhythm to filmmaking, with some clever action scenes interlaced with witty banter. I had my reservations about seeing U.N.C.L.E. but, I was quickly relieved by how fun this movie is. It's cool, it's stylish, and it entertains. The costumes (largely vintage), set up the elegance appropriately with some exotic locations in Italy and London. Everything looks like a 60's era museum for the affluent and sophisticated brought to life. Who needs rocket boots and computer screen windshields when good old hands on spy work looks this good?

As with their tailor-made suits and dresses, nearly every actor in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. fits perfectly. Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) and Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger) are like the odd couple of secret agent teammates. Cavill is proper and collected, while Hammer is brash and impulsive. Together they amuse with their contradicting approaches to the situations at hand, as they argue and try to one up each other. Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) as a reluctant ally to Cavill and Hammer, is both energetic and sexy without backing down from her partners. The sexual tension between her and Hammer, is arousingly playful. You actually believe that these two are into each other. Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby 2013) and Luca Calvani (When in Rome) as U.N.C.L.E.'s main villains, are a nice change of pace from the typical baddies that we see lately. Instead of them being some overly charismatic conquerors that have some kind of special ability or defect, they come off as the more realistic kind of antagonists that are just greedy and have the capital and clout to stay that way. Debicki is an enchanting tease that stays poised no matter the circumstance. Calvani plays a decent douchebag but, he takes the backseat to Debicki in screen time and effectiveness. In a small but memorable role, Sylvestor Groth (Inglorious Basterds) plays an old Nazi torture expert that participates in one of the film's funniest scenes. Side characters played by Jared Harris (Poltergeist 2015) and Hugh Grant (Notting Hill), are okay but seem held back to give the main actors the spotlight.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Good- Hammer's and Vikander's drunk fight, the bathroom break, the boat chase/lunch theft, and never take your eyes off of a faulty electric chair.

The Bad- This is an origin story to the TV show but with little origin. There's nearly zero time in this film for any character expansion. We just have to ride along with these guys with little to no understanding of them.

The Ugly- Guy Ritchie promised us back in 2008 that there would be two sequels to his film, RocknRolla. Today, still nothing. This film is another in a long line of big budget American financed films that have him once again putting the RocknRolla trilogy on the back burner. Dammit man, honor your promises!

Final Thoughts on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Although The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has so much lacking in depth that you could even call it shallow, it's so much fun and laugh inducing that it really doesn't matter. Similar in style and humor to this year's Kingsman: The Secret Service, I would say that this film is close to being as good. See this in theaters and remember a time when nobody (even spies) had a cell phone attached to their hip and people talked to each other instead of texting. Oh yeah, most of us weren't alive then. But I do remember rotary phones. Better yet, forget about that.
Rating- 8 out of 10

Running Time- 116 Minutes

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