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Movie Breakdown: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Noah)

August 13, 2015

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The Impression:

Guy Ritchie, post-crime-flicks and post-Swept-Away has actually developed into a consistently entertaining, stylish director. I look forward to his films. And with this one starring Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) and two slabs of rock chiseled into the shape of men, I’m borderline excited.

The Reality:

If you’re looking for subtext and strong character development and a plot that’s full of twists and turns – go watch one of Mendes’ Bond flicks. But, if you want a bunch of very attractive people playing some solid spy archetypes over a fantastically stylish pastiche of a whole bunch of the best of the 60s spy films? Well then my anonymous friends, this is the film for you. Over his last three movies Guy Ritchie has ably managed to tweak his filmic style away from, at times, unwatchable and hyperkinetic, down to something more akin to his early work. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. doesn’t shy away from style – in all honesty, it’s pretty much a very well done exercise in visual aesthetics – but also allows Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, and Alicia Vikander to revel in the uber-cool silliness of their stock spy characters. Cavill plays Napoleon Solo, a former thief and now, super-American spy who’s tasked with partnering up with K.G.B. behemoth Illya (Mr. Hammer) to find and protect Gabby Heller (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a nuclear physicist. In short, things happen, bad guys appear, so on and so forth – but mostly, the three leads get to embody the very essence of bad-ass 60s spy. Hammer, though saddled with a Russian accent, plays a giant of a man with a pained interior with gusto though I wished we could’ve actually seen the violent rage that they merely hinted at. Cavill’s Solo is the very best kind of one note, pearly-smiled cardboard cutout that Ritchie bounces scenario after scenario against, slowly revealing the edges of his character. I’ve been curious about Cavill since Man of Steel, and after seeing his edgy charm in this film, I’m curious to see what’s next. Vikander is the best of the lot, the sort of girl next door character (if the girl next door was an extremely attractive Hollywood actress) that fits right in with the statues she calls male co-leads. Aside from acting though, this is Ritchie’s film, a beautifully slammed together mish-mash of style that feels like Tarantino-lite. No stylistic device is unused – split scenes, tracking shots, huge over-the-top crane shots, etc. – and somehow, it never feels oversaturated. What Ritchie does best though is music, gracefully soundtracking the film with a barrage of obscure, and not so obscure, 60s hits that create the backbone and the rhythm for which it moves. Songs start and stop as the action progresses, and more than once I felt the need to pump my fist as a song roared back to life. This isn’t Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, hell, it isn’t even Mission Impossible, but it’s fun, and after a summer of stupid blockbusters that hit my brain like a napkin full of wet bird shit, dumb fun done well, was just what I needed.

The Lesson:

I’m giving Ritchie some serious credit here for turning his shit around, but don’t get me wrong, all of this credit will come crashing to the ground post-King Arthur.

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Movie Breakdown: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

August 12, 2015

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The Impression:

Guy Ritchie’s first non-Sherlock Holmes film in six years is a big screen version of a 60s TV show.  I guess I’m excited?  The trailers have mostly just shown off the movie’s roster of pretty faces – Henry Cavill, Arnie Hammer, Alicia Vikander – and not a lot else.

The Reality:

2015 has already delivered two great spy flicks – Kingsmen: The Secret Service and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  The former is a stylish, edgy film and the latter is a big, fun summer blockbuster.  The Man From U.N.C.L.E. seems to want to be a mix of both Kingsmen and Rogue Nation, but it doesn’t quite get the formula right.  On one hand it looks and sounds fantastic because Guy Ritchie knows how to stimulate the senses (and the main cast is made up only of really beautiful people), but on the flip side there’s just not much else worth noting.  There aren’t any big, memorable action scenes, most of the characters aren’t given much to do outside of simply quipping at one another, and the story itself just isn’t all that interesting (something something the bad guys have a nuclear device).  It is, as a wise man once said, all style and no substance.

By the way, I will totally acknowledge that I’ve never seen a single moment of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV show, so it’s entirely possible that the movie is just like it and will make those of you who are fans all super giddy and whatnot.  If you’re not a hardcore lover of the show though and you just want to see a good spy movie, I think you could do a whole lot better than the big shoulder shrug that is The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  Wait for this one to hit the small screen before bothering with it.

The Lesson:

Henry Cavill is a really chiseled one trick pony, isn’t he?

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