How Many TV Spies can I Eye This Year?

11 Aug

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

hugh-grant-man-from-uncleHardly many people will realize that The Man from U.N.C.L.E., is an origin tale. When the trailer suggests otherwise, that three people will comprise the team, the spoiler is made and all anyone can do is go through the motions of forgetting what the commercials have unveiled. In what’s presented is a look at two agents at odds with each other while embarking on the same mission. The differing philosophies and dramatic tension between Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) makes for some great comedy. When the two are polar opposites, that alone sets up the fact that these two are going to be the odd couple of the spy world.

Cavill has the chops to play Solo. The name alone suggests he would rather work alone than with a Soviet compatriot. Kuryakin has anger management issues and to see him attempt to restrain himself is amusing before all hell breaks loose. With the tale set in the 60’s, the tensions these two have for each other make for a great contrast to the political dealings that’s happening at large.

Their bosses have decided to pair the two together because of their individual resourcefulness to get the job done. They are tasked to find the keys to arming the nuclear arsenal that a very powerful dame, Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), is also keen on obtaining. When Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), a daughter of a missing nuclear scientist, gets involved, just who is stringing whom along becomes part of this film’s charm.

maxresdefaultWriter/director Guy Ritchie has crafted a love letter to the spy genre in a style that’s prim and proper for the time. When compared to his Sherlock Holmes films, which was action-heavy, this period film feels scaled back. It does not rely on unrealistic set pieces to get viewers engaged in the action. That is, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is less like Mission: Impossible in the modern cinematic sense and more like Danger Man. Patrick McGoohan’s interpretation of the spy genre deals more with the political tensions of the time than with how upper class society is always involved in creating a new world order. That’s a common trope in a fair number of spy films. This movie is no exception to the rule, and thankfully the narrative does not waste a lot of time in this world because it’s not important to the tale.

The cinematic style is worth noting. The use of multiple split-screens to create a comic book style presentation is a nice-touch to move the narrative along. This movie hardly feels like an homage to the television series of the same name. It feels like its own beast since Napoleon and Kuryakin are not fully realized partners yet. When they do, that’s when they truly become part of the United Network Command for Law and Order.

4 Stars out of 5


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