The Cold War was an incredibly stressful time in the world following the fallout from WWII. And yet, there have been films set in that time period which make it seem like a time of intrigue, excitement and heat. Top Gun, X-Men: First Class, and Watchmen come to mind for me in particular.
Today’s Theatrical Tuesday entry is set in that time period too. But is the meal hot or stone cold?
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Wigram, Elizabeth DeBicki, Hugh Grant
Director: Guy Ritchie
released on blu-ray November 17, 2015
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%, Audience Score 78%
The Guardian: **/*****
Guy Ritchie is well known for making crime films. He has Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Revolver, RocknRolla, both Downey Jr. adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, and now The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to his name.
I really wanted to get into this movie, especially after seeing the trailer. It appears to have all the elements needed for fun, but does it hold up? Let’s review the plot.
In 1960s Germany, American Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) heads from East to West Germany, but is followed by Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). Solo stops at a garage and meets Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander). Gaby’s estranged father is building a bomb for the Nazis. It is Solo’s mission to escort her out of country and get her to her uncle Rudi (Sylvester Groth) so she can meet her dad.
They head to the border, chased by Kuryakin. They narrowly escape him and are able to zip line over the Berlin wall. With Kuryakin behind them, the escape truck backs up, shorting the line and stranding Illya on the other side of the wall.
We learn from Kuryakin’s briefing that Solo came to Europe during WWII, but stayed to become a thief. Eventually captured, the CIA recruited him to make use of his skills.
Fast forward, CIA specialist Sanders (Jared Harris) meets Solo for a mission. Turns out it’s a set up and Illya Kuryakin appears and gets the drop on Napoleon. The KGB director Oleg (Misha Kuznetsov) then comes in and we learn Solo and Kury are teaming up on this mission.
In Rome, Kury and Gaby will pose as a couple while Solo is an antiquities dealer. The suspicion is that uncle Rudi works for a criminal organization which belongs to Alexanders but is run by his wife Victoria. A man named Waverly (Hugh Grant) checks into the hotel in Rome right before Napoleon does. When Napoleon checks in, he discovers some henchmen but then disappears. While Kury and Gaby are walking Solo shows up and warns Kury he will get mugged, but that he should let it happen to keep his cover. The mugging then happens though Kury loses his fathers watch and Gaby’s engagement ring, he keeps his cool.
We see Solo engage in sex with the desk clerk while Gaby get drunk in the other room in the hopes that Kury will dance with her. He won’t, but they wrestle, and she then passes out. The next day the two agents confront each other about bugs they found in their rooms. Kury then picks Gaby up at the hotel entrance with a brand new engagement ring.
Solo heads to a party that Victoria is throwing. On the way in, he steals an invitation from Waverly by bumping into him. He then fights security so Victoria will notice him. He also steals her necklace and a bracelet from another guest. Victoria introduces herself and Solo says his name is Deveny and that he specializes in filling in gaps in collections. He gives her the bracelet and the necklace.
While at the party, Rudi insults Kury about his ethnicity. Kury leaves to calm down, but gets into a fight with three men in the washroom. Alexander takes this opportunity to flirt with Gaby, but Kury comes back and they leave the party.
At the hotel, Kury has developed camera film in order to pick up radiation on people at the party. They all go to sleep to ponder the information, but in the next scene we see the two agents separately break in. They decide to work together and get past all obstacles until the safe alarm goes off…
And that’s enough plot.
Pros: These are some seriously beautiful locales, sets, people, and the cinematography is top notch. We can thank Guy Ritchie for that, as he always appeals to our sense.
Cons: It’s too generic of a story which doesn’t ever get serious enough, and yet it is nowhere near as much fun or as campy as the TV show on which it was based. It’s no where near as interesting as 007, Bourne, or Ethan Hunt romps.
Runtime: 116 minutes
Points of Interest: Armie Hammer was the only cast member to watch the original show in preparation. When Henry Cavill is in the truck eating and drinking, one station on the radio is playing the original theme music. The movie takes place about a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, which the show never revealed.
If you like spy movies enough to pay attention to the details, this one isn’t for you. But if you like fun, comedy, and stylization, check it out.
As I mentioned earlier, there is something appealing about an era film, maybe it’s the sets, the clothes and the phrases, but I keep thinking it’s because we want to make history come back to life, when sometimes it should stay in the freezer. Till next time dear readers.