The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

the main from uncleThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. – 3.5/5 – This is the year of Spy films.  From the off the wall Kingsman: The Secret Service, the action packed/adrenaline rush of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and underrated comedy Spy, this has been a good year so far.  With even more spy films on the way (Spectre, Hitman: Agent 47 and Bridges of Spies), spy genre enthusiast should be pleased.  A film that might be lost in the mix is one that plays more to the ideas of what makes a spy film standout.  Set during the height of the Cold War, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  puts two foes together as they must fight against a common enemy.  With a lot of style, pizzazz and unique characters, this is a film that will appeal to those that love the old spy film.

Premise: In the early 1960s, the CIA and KGB bring two operatives together in a joint mission to take down a criminal organization.  With a common enemy, two foes turned allies must stop them before they bring the world into another world war.

At the heart of this film are three individuals.  They are:

Henry Cavill as Solo (American Spy)

Armie Hammer as Illya (Russian Spy)

Alicia Vikander as Gaby

The two actors that play the foe-turned-enemy spy duo do a marvelous job in creating real contrasting individuals.  Both of them have distinct personalities, as well as unique spy skill sets.  Each brings something different to table, no matter if it’s their personalities, actions or cliché but flawed misgivings, there charisma is drawn from the colorful script by Guy Ritchie.  This gives off the impression of strong individuals who are just ‘making’ it work for the sake of the common good.  The distinction helps purport the film’s overall enjoyment.  Their dynamic is fresh (even in its homage approach).  No matter if they are talking, fighting or doing individual acts, you’re entertained by their characters.  For the female companion, Alicia Vikander does a wondrous job as Gaby.  She is stern, subtle but most of all mysterious.  She has varied depth that is different from the other two, but that helps add a different kind of dynamic to the group.  As a trio, it gives you a great satirical aspect of the spy genre.  There dynamic straddles the line of cheesy to make it enticing but not predictable.  When it comes to the villain, we have:

Elizabeth Debicki as Victoria

She is the reason for the Russians and Americans working together.  Her antagonist role is very much a reflection of any common spy villain, but her sophistication combined with her alluring beauty creates a strong archetype character in the film.  For the rest of the cast, you have varied known names and some new comers, but they just play second fiddle to the characters above.  At times they just help move the plot, but also helps add to the ‘style’ of this film.

The direction plays along with the classic tropes of the old school spy films.  Guy Ritchie (Writer/Director) comes at you with a very stylistic approach.  From the usage of boxed camera progression, quick action shots and the colorful approach to the script, you can feel there is more focused on the art more than the complexion of telling a deep realistic tale.  The film is filled with all the common storytelling tools you would find in a spy oriented flick:

Foe-turned-enemy plot device

Suave Villain who wants to control the world

Female Companion (Either a lover, another spy or damsel with plot importance)

Folly villain sidekick(s)

Straight-laced Spy Agency boss(es)

Second tier comical/dramatic/love caricatures (Usually forced plot devices)

This is what you find mixed within Ritchie’s script.  There isn’t a big focus on the story (Through all three acts), as it plays second hand to the characters, stylized direction and awkward/comical sequences.  All the transitions, complexion and linear storytelling play through the ‘eyes’ of the director.  When you get this, there’s a lot of reliance on two common factors:

Focal point of style over substance

Slick, witty dialogue between the characters

For the most part, you’re enthralled by these two factors.  There are some smart expositions between the two spies, but also some comical banter that happens when you get all three in the same room.  It’s whimsical and vibrant to see them on screen.  As all of this unfolds, you know that the story is the basic thread: the spies must stop before the villain starts another World War.  In this, you’re flushed with a mixture of hijinx situations, sexual endeavors and standard spy action elements.  You come to understand that this film is colorful take that plays as a montage to the ‘old school’ style of spy thrillers.  The one thing this does is hide predictability, even if you know the basic backbone of the beginning, middle and end.  Once you get to the end, all plays out in a very alluring fashion, built upon the two common factors listed above.  In the end, even with a lack of a cohesive story, it is a wonderful spy film in its own right.

The visuals of this film are built upon the factor of being saturated with color and nostalgia.  With the movie taking place at the height of the Cold War, you are given a great look in a montage fashion, building sensations through the quick cameras, box-like progression and focused/unfocused object references throughout.  The blending of action comes across as pristine, but still plays as homage to the old school flavor.  The score is very subtle in this film, not really helping or hindering the film.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a thrilling spy film.  This is one that is a true nostalgia trip.  If you’re a fan of the spy genre, this won’t disappoint.  Very stylized, it is one that will keep you entertaining at the movie theaters.

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