Wednesday, August 19, 2015

[Review] The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is an awkward title for a feature, but it's actually a reboot of a '60s TV series of the same name. This Guy Ritchie film is a fun, old-fashioned spy caper.

Set amidst the Cold War, we meet Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill, Man of Steel), a suave, smooth-talking CIA agent. He tracks down a woman named Gabby Teller (Alicia Vikander). She's a mysterious, quick-witted, and highly skilled auto mechanic who is a key lead in Solo's mission. Things waste no time ramping up when they realize another decorated, hard-to-kill agent named Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) is on their trail, and a long chase scene ensues through the nooks and crannies of East Berlin. Next thing you know, the group of three are forced to join forces in order to infiltrate a criminal organization with nuclear stakes.

As expected, the plot is packed with turns, twists, questionable allegiances, and surface thrills. The element that it really has going for it is that it's very funny. The bickering between the characters is always amusing, and the film is full of shameless sight gags. There's a heavy utilization of visual flair, energetic camerawork, and jazzy editing. During a standout scene of cross-cuts, the three main characters split up at a party with specific tasks at-hand, and there's just something humorous about all these people that are constantly 'up to something' being in an area at the same damn time.

Henry Cavill came off as stiff and stale as Superman in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, and that might have been due to scripting and tonal issues, because in a setting like U.N.C.L.E. he's extremely charismatic and demonstrates some great comic timing. Then there's Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, Testament of Youth), and as I've mentioned before, she's one of the most impressive new-ish actresses on the scene, and this role further confirms that, especially as she's able to let loose and wield some swagger.

The story does lose some of its momentum toward the end, and it gets a little confusing (perhaps intentionally), and the latter pile of twists actually drag out a bit. However, it's an enjoyable enough ride to come away feeling accomplished.


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