Dog’s Movie House: “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” Light On Its Cinematic Feet!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog!
I was never a fan of the Robert Vaughn-starring 60’s television series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” so I don’t know how faithful this cinematic adaptation is going to be. But I will tell you that, on it’s own, Guy Ritchie’s (“Snatch”, “Sherlock Holmes”) latest is a loving, light-on-its-feet homage to a bygone era of cold war espionage and 60’s fashions. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel and is not particularly deep, but “The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is marvelously entertaining.
“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” tells the tale of CIA operative Napoleon Solo (an appropriately debonair Henry Cavill) and KGB stud Illya Kurakin (Armie Hammer, reminding everyone that “The Lone Ranger” was not his fault), two agents who are forced to work together after a nefarious organization discovers the means to build their own nuclear bomb. They are joined by Gaby (Alicia Vikander, so good in this spring’s “Ex Machina”) a mechanic working in East Germany who’s missing father holds the key to the bad guys’ plans. Together they head to Italy where they confront the head of the snake, represented hear by the icily cold Victoria (portrayed by an appropriately icily cold Elizabeth Debicki). Alliances, escapes, and double crosses ensue, all performed with a style and flair that would do any fan of the 1960’s aesthetic proud.
Yes, I said the 60’s. Unlike the updated cinematic versions of the Mission Impossible franchise, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” stays true to its cold war roots and is a better film because of it. Everything from the fashion to the music to the technology feels rooted in Connery-era Bond atmosphere, but with a comic touch that harkens back to Roger Moore at his best during his Bond years.
I have to say I was really impressed with Henry Cavill here. This guy just gets it as Solo. I’ve heard his American accent is off (Cavill’s a Brit) but I couldn’t really tell during my time at the movie. And even if it wasn’t perfect, Cavill’s swagger is enough to be a character all on its own, so much so that I wouldn’t mind it one bit if Cavill through his hat into the ring to replace Daniel Craig as the next Bond. He is that good.
Also having a great deal of fun is Hammer as Illya, whose straightforward way of acting is often at odds with Solo’s slight of hand. Illya comes off as a legitimate badass as well, with Hammer towering of the average height of Cavill, often for comedic effect. The two actors are clearly having a good time playing off one another and that chemistry proves infectious for the audience.
Vikander’s role as Gaby is the most complicated of the trio, and it isn’t much of a spoiler to say that Gaby is not all that she seems, but Vikander is certainly game and the inevitable twists that accompany a film such as this are never too much for her. She has very good chemistry with Hammer and I admired the filmmakers’ resistance in creating a love triangle between Gaby, Illya, and Napoleon. This is all about Gaby and the big Russian, with Solo interrupting at all the inopportune times for comedic effect.
The machinations of the plot are serviceable, but not outstanding, with Debicki’s icy Victoria a formidable enough villain. Getting some good and creepy screen time is Sylvester Groth’s Uncle Rudi, a relation of Gaby’s who just happens to be a master at the art of torture. He only has one signature scene, but it’s a good one, played equally for creepiness and laughs.
Also appearing on hand are Jared Harris and Hugh Grant as bigwigs for the CIA and MI6, respectively and both bring their “A” game to underwritten roles. It was especially gratifying to see Hugh Grant on screen again as he successfully balances charm and authority in equal measure.
While the finale has some neat stuff to it, it’s nothing to write home about and Ritchie’s decision to cut the screen up into sections, 60’s style, during some of the larger action set pieces, was more distracting than novel, but these are small quibbles. The tone remains playful throughout and the banter between the actors, heroes and villains alike, is really, really good. I hope this film does well enough to merit another trip with this team because the first time out is pretty much a winner all the way around! If you want something light, yet entertaining at the theater, check out “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. So Sayeth The Kendog!
3 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!
“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is rated PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity.