Nov 23, 2015

[Movies] The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Reboot mania isn't going to end anytime soon and as we move forward in time, more things become "old enough" to be remade or rebooted. Not that we've already taken all older franchises for a spin - there's always something for someone to decide to spin into something almost new. And this movie was a project that I wasn't expecting to happen - but of course it did.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a remake of the classic 1960's TV series of the same name. But I guess the twist here is the guy who ended up directing this movie and bringing this classic spy series into modern times. And they certainly picked some interesting leads to steer us through the story and I'm sure it helped things along in more ways than one.

But at the same time the movie was shot with somewhat more modern sensibilities with that cold war feel to things. And that's an interesting mix to bring to the table. I found myself pretty amused with how the movie unfolded over time and it did make for quite an entertaining experience.

Synopsis: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a British-American action comedy spy move directed by Guy Ritchie, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Lionel Wigram. As stated before, it was based on the 1964 MGM television series of the same name.

On the one hand we have Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill), a professional thief who has turned a new life and is now CIA agent. On the other hand we have KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). Given the countries that they represent, the two should be enemies, but because of a much larger plot the two end up needing to work together on this particular mission.

Enter Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), daughter of Udo Teller (Christian Berkel), a supposed Nazi scientists turned American collaborator after World War II. She had been rescued by Napoleon in a mission at the start of the movie. Through Gaby they find out that her father is being forced to create a nuclear weapon by his captors, and thus the need for the two agencies to work together to secure the device. All three have to work together now to find Teller's daughter without breaking cover.

The dynamic between the two spies is quite delightful given the sort of disciplines they represent. Solo is all cocky and suave and pretty much what you would expect from an American spy. Kuryakin is oddly enough a man of science who believes that his country is superior to the rest of the world in every way. Both are formidable fighters but have very different approaches to the whole spy game. It's your class odd couple sort of setup, but how they interact and what they manage to accomplish is pretty amazing.

Guy Ritchie has a flair for combat sequences and he certainly knows how to have fun. Throw in the rather different characters involved and how many differences between them and you end up with even crazier sequences that have a lot of moments of contrasting their styles and abilities to great effect. I'm not talking about fight scenes that feel like well-choreographed moments of ballet or anything like that, but the sort of sequences that have a lot of fun involved.

The story itself was interesting enough with the sort of classically convoluted plot that appears to be one thing at first but of course is actually something else entirely. There are moments when things seem brilliantly clear and other times when the revelations seem totally left field and feel almost a little "unfair" since they were hard to have foreseen for sure. But that's a spy movie for you - trust no one.

Outside of the action, the movie had some odd moments in terms of pacing. As dynamic as the fight sequences and the infiltration moments were, there were also a lot of uncomfortable moments of drama and comedy that falls a little short and things of that nature. It's not always great, but for the most part it works out. But the not so great bits do stand out a bit and they somewhat drag the movie down a notch or two. The stars end up needing to carry most of the movie given the story falls short here and there and that's not exactly a winning formula for success.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is still an entertaining enough movie that will have some fun bits for everyone. You may just have to wait a bit longer for those fun bits to come around, and that's the pain of the experience. Thus the movie only gets 3.5 bugs and tracers planted on different people at different points in the movie out of a possible 5.

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