Friday, August 14, 2015 marks the official theatrical release of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance for the advance press screening this past Tuesday, courtesy of Warner Bros. and Regal Cinemas.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. stars Henry Cavil (of Man of Steel) as Napoleon Solo, a CIA agent working in Soviet controlled East Berlin in the 1960’s. His counterpart, KGB agent Ilya Kuryakin, played by Armie Hammer (of The Lone Ranger) is something of a carefully controlled psychotic and Russian iron man. Both men are at the top of their agencies, despite their major character flaws (Solo is a master thief and Kuyrakin is a bit of a rage monster). Alongside of these two strong men is Gaby, played by Alicia Vikander (of Ex Machina), a German mechanic stuck in East Berlin. Her father is a German scientist that used to work for Hitler making bombs, but has recently disappeared. The need to find him through her begins our adventure.
Hammer’s Kuyrakin is spot on. He does a beautiful job with his accent and his barely contained anger. Cavil’s Solo is equally believable, though he tends to sound more like he’s narrating the movie rather than acting in it. The play between the two is rather amusing at times, especially in the dress shop scene. Add in Vikander’s performance as the sardonic Gaby and you have a rather amusing, yet surprisingly serious trio.
Now, we throw in the baddies. Elizabeth Debicki (of The Great Gatsby) playing Victoria Vinciguerra, a wealthy, albeit insane, heiress provides us with an epic performance obviously designed to make you want to reach into the screen to strangle her or slap her silly. Well played, madam. Her husband, Alexander, played by Luca Calvani (of When in Rome), is only given a few scenes and a few lines in the movie, but he delivers them well enough for you to feel like needing a shower after seeing him. Uncle Rudi (Sylvester Groth of Inglorious Basterds) makes you think he’s a nice old uncle for about two minutes before he talks about blood superiority and then later turns into a torturer who enjoyed working for Hitler. Groth is sufficiently creepy for this sadistic role, and I think he really nails it.
Guy Ritchie not only directs this little gem, but he also wrote it, hence the attention to detail and authenticity in every aspect of this movie. He even throws in some commonly used bits of cinematography, namely the panels, used during this time period. While I never got to watch the re-runs of this particular show (in fact, I wasn’t even born when the original Man From U.N.C.L.E. series aired), I am familiar with their use of comic-book-style paneling used by television shows in the 60’s. He even managed to get many scenes to look as though they were shot during this time period, so, kudos to Ritchie. As our editor Dave Harlequin would say “I have yet to see a bad Ritchie film” and I wholeheartedly agree. His only bad film was probably shot during his wedding to Madonna. This film was pretty stellar.
While I know a lot of recent classic television to big screen adaptations have worked to move the shows forward, Mission Impossible comes to mind (especially since Tom Cruise was originally to play Solo – and it’s honestly a good thing he wasn’t), I’m rather glad that Ritchie chose to keep this one authentic. He didn’t make it too over-the-top cheesy, but instead kept it as true to the original series as possible like The Lone Ranger big screen adaptation, which also starred Armie Hammer. It was a delicate balance incorporated by the writers of the shows, and it’s wonderfully refreshing to see it executed so flawlessly in this movie.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a beautiful blend of excellent cinematography, time-period accuracy, and a classic spy action/comedy. It’s a solid flick and totally worth seeing in theaters. – 8.5/10
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine