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

Kraken Reviews aren’t always thorough, and they’re rarely objective. No rating scale, nothing like that. Rotten Tomatoes already has that covered. We just like to talk about movies and the like.

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

The Summary:
In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Jared Harris with Hugh Grant thrown in for fun

I was initially jazzed about this film during production. It had all the good signs going in: period setting (60s), great casting, cool director, off mix of humor and action (just like Guy Ritchie did with Sherlock Holmes) and finally, it was an espionage story.. so despite never watching the TV series, I was on board. Then it was released shortly before SPECTRE and during the early blitz for Force Awakens and seemed to just fade into nothing in the media eye. I remember it hitting the theater but then rapidly disappearing. That was disconcerting. Like John Carter OF FUCKING MARS and similar projects, I was concerned modern audiences would dismiss this film as being a knock off of other films in the public consciousness. Where John Carter OF FUCKING MARS was an excellent adaptation of the story that predated and directly birthed all of modern fantasy, UNCLE was not necessarily an originator (it was a side project from Ian Fleming pulled from ideas from one of his Bond books) but WAS and is an interesting story device, pulling agents from both sides of the Cold War together. Anyway, I fired it up the other night and crossed all me fingers and all me toes, except those holding my martini glass (containing the homebrew gin, courtesy of One Lung) and dug in.

I was initially turned off. The smarmy, affected debonair Henry Cavill was doing as CIA Agent Napoleon Solo was grating, and the rivalry and cocksure one-upmanship between him and his soviet rival, Illya Kuryakin (played by Armie Hammer) felt tired and cliched. I was frustrated. Only the wiles of Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander kept me watching. And then somewhere in the second act, I realized I was enjoying it, and in the third act, having a good time and wanting more. What I think did it was dispensing with that initial alpha posturing and almost farcical rivalry, and getting into the meat of the plot, and most specifically, doing it in 60’s Italy, which really kicked up the period fashion and imagery a notch. I personally tire of super so-and-so’s who act unmoved and unsurprised, unflinching, as bullets fly and cars careen and whatever, like it’s all part of a Matrix sim they mastered a long time ago (something that I LOVED in the later parts of All You Need is Tole, when Cruise was plowing through his day like replaying a level with perfect precision in some FPS)… and initially, Solo was very much like this. I get it I get it, it was drawn purposefully broad. But it bugged me. But when things toned down on that front and the guys started working together, I got into it. It only made about $130M internationally on a $75M budget so it’s unlikely to get a sequel, which is disappointing. I’d love to see another one in this series. I’m perpetually starved for period adventure films.

Also, let me repeat, Alicia Vikander.

One last thing: a cool scene at the beginning featured the two spies sitting down at the same table and realizing the handlers hat put them together, and as they start to freak out, the handlers get up and leave them to discuss the joint mission, and as they do, the entire cafe cleans out (ie. the whole place was undercover agents) was fun, and a cool nod to Ritchie’s previous film, Game of Shadows, in which Jared Harris was the same role: the guy that signals for the room to clear. I recognized it but didn’t register where from until I looked it up.

By Salty Thom
Chief of Ninja Group


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