The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Review
by Adrea Scheidler
Five out of Five stars. Ten out of Ten. Three thumbs up! What? I really liked this movie, guys. And it wasn’t just because of Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer… though neither of them hurt… at all… except sometimes to look at in their glory of awesomeness.
Okay, okay, you require more convincing than just my word since I did fail pretty miserably with Jupiter’s Ascending? It’s just – I really wanted to like Jupiter’s Ascending and I had heard it was a disaster, so anything good about it was a nice surprise. Look, let’s just never speak of it again.
I was not terribly interested in this movie because the trailer just didn’t hook me, but Alicia Vikander, who plays Gaby Teller, was on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon – and she did. She was feisty and confident and fun to watch which made me think – Oh! Maybe this isn’t just a total male fantasy movie. I don’t necessarily object to those (I love James Bond and Mission Impossible), but you’ll get repeat viewing + buying a copy of the movie from me when there’s a female character who’s likable and strong…
Anyway, this film is set during the Cold War and involves two superspies from two superpowers (USA, USSR) being forced to work together to thwart a nuclear threat by non-country-specific villains. While these are super spies, they are just on this side of believable. They have manual car windows and real world problems (like paper invitations and static on their gadgets). Gaby is the reluctant East German daughter of the reluctant ex-Nazi scientist who is building the nuclear bomb for the bad guys. Both spies are charged with getting her help to find her father and protecting her.
That’s the basic gist. But here’s what makes this movie great: It is a BEAUTIFUL movie. Spy movies not your thing? Then don’t listen – just watch. From gorgeous costumes to striking vistas and GORGEOUS people. I mean, the villain is Elizabeth Debicki – it doesn’t matter the evil plan she’s plotting – she’s just pretty to look at! Still not floating your boat? Well how about music? Do you like music? This movie has the most amazing rhythm I’ve ever noticed behind a film. The score interacts with the action seamlessly and has a major emotional impact on how the scene builds. Yes, the score is always supposed to do that – but in this case – it doesn’t do so subtly. The soundtrack is not second fiddle in this movie – it stands right up there with the rest of the players and holds it’s own.
There are two scenes that go on a tad long, but I think in both cases, director Guy Ritchie was trying to set up a specific turn in the movie. The first involves a funnily LONG sequence for Henry Cavill’s character to decide to help and therefore acknowledge Armie Hammer’s character as a partner. The second is the entire life story of a third ranking bad guy. I mean – it’s lyrical and it DOES set up a fear for what our hero is about to go through, but – it was so long that I had time to mentally opt out of the movie to wonder if this character was super important in the television show, since they were giving him SO MUCH monologue. I mean, it’s nothing like the ridiculously long Smallville fight in Man of Steel…
Speaking of, I hope people go and watch both Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Ilya Kuryakin so that they aren’t trapped by their Superman and Lone Ranger characters. The two characters are perfect foils for each other; With Cavill’s character smooth and sexy and emotionally clipped vs. Hammer’s character brute strength, emotional violence and inferiority complex. They naturally spar as opposites do and, just as naturally, seem to recognize and resent how much the other possesses that they themselves do not. It’s an unlikely friendship that makes total sense. You could, if you were interested in psychology, think of it like the two sides of James Bond split apart – since I’m told (by my researcher/husband) that Ian Fleming was brought in to develop the television show that my movie here is based on. Anyway, I didn’t recognize Hammer from The Lone Ranger, which is a good thing. And I didn’t once get a Superman vibe from Cavill – also a good thing. I know sometimes, especially for Superman, it’s hard to break out of that mold, so I hope this helps him.
It’s not laugh out loud funny like Melissa McCarthy’s Spy. But it’s not supposed to be. It IS funny; and flirtatiously charming and witty and sweet and has moments of strong emotional pull. As a viewer, I was invested with how these characters would bond. There is a bit of romance, though really it’s more of a hint. A lovely little delicious beginning. Which, honestly is what the whole movie is: a beginning.
I hope enough people go and see it so they are forced to do a sequel. I hope everyone involved that made it as good as it is wants to do a sequel and if they don’t – they do it anyway. Because I promise, if they are faithful to what they started, it will be one of those rare cases where a sequel has more potential than the original. Not because there’s anything wrong with this movie, but when I left the theatre, I was left wanting more. Like, now that the partnerships are defined and the relationships begun – now I just wanted them to run with all of what they’d set up. It could be SO fun, guys, if we could just get it to happen!
Am I sounding a little pathetic? It’s just that there are so few movies out there that I can enjoy that are in my lane, so to speak. Take, The Kingsman for example – I stand by that being a great movie – but I went in KNOWING it was going to be the sort of movie it was – brutal and bloody – a fast lane sort of movie. I hope they do another one of those too but I’ll be closing my eyes thru a third of it. I’m excited to see Spector too – but I’m not under any pretense that I’m going to be able to invest in any of the relationships made there. I’m going to love it for what I love about Bond and then my eyes are going to glass over during the plot. The Man from U.N.C.L.E, on the other hand, is more character, ensemble driven, so I’m willing to devote some hope to how the relationships with strengthen and continue. I’m watching with eyes wide open, enjoying the art of it as well as catching humor I missed the first time around (Yes I’ve already seen it twice). And, by the way, Hugh Grant as Alexander Waverly gets the reward for funniest lines I missed in the first viewing and caught the second.
So, to recap, please go see this movie. Please? And bring your friends. And write your senator.