Sunday, August 16, 2015




Henry Cavill ("Man of Steel") stars as Napoleon Solo opposite Armie Hammer ("The Social Network") as Illya Kuryakin in director Guy Ritchie's "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," a fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series. Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." centers on CIA agent Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo's only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe. "The Man from U.N.C.L.E" also stars Alicia Vikander ("Anna Karenina"), Elizabeth Debicki ("The Great Gatsby"), with Jared Harris ("Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows"), and Hugh Grant as Waverly. The screenplay was written by Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram, who previously collaborated on re-imagining the classic detective Sherlock Holmes in two hit films. The story is by Jeff Kleeman & David Campbell Wilson and Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram, based on the television series "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." John Davis ("Chronicle"), Steve Clark-Hall ("RocknRolla," the "Sherlock Holmes" films), Wigram and Ritchie produced the film, with David Dobkin serving as executive producer. Ritchie's behind-the-scenes creative team included two-time Oscar (R)-nominated director of photography John Mathieson ("The Phantom of the Opera," "Gladiator"), production designer Oliver Scholl ("Jumper," "Edge of Tomorrow"), editor James Herbert (the "Sherlock Holmes" films, "Edge of Tomorrow"), and Oscar (R)-nominated costume designer Joanna Johnston ("Lincoln"). The music is composed by Daniel Pemberton ("The Counselor").(c) Warner Bros

Rating: PG-13 (for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity)
Directed By: Guy Ritchie
In Theaters: Aug 14, 2015 Wide
Runtime: 1 hr. 56 min.
Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site


The movie starts and this man looks like he just walked out of a GQ magazine cover. And it doesn't ruin the rest of the movie. ©Warner Bros. Pictures

So Superman and the Lone Ranger unite to fight a Paris Hilton clone during the cold war...

So maybe that's not what's happening but think about it, wouldn't that be an entertaining sketch? Anyway, Henry Cavill can't escape being forever referred to from this point on as Superman and I'm guessing no one remembers Armie Hammer much after he donned the leather mask and started talking to a white horse, the Paris Hilton bit is because when I first saw Elizabeth Debicki in the trailer I thought it was Paris Hilton at first then noticed that she could actually act, unlike Paris Hilton.

Moving on. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. started back in the mid to late 60's as a television series. It ran for 105 episodes and was conceived by Norman Felton but also had a little help in the beginning from Ian Fleming, the man who created James Bond. It was originally supposed to be about American agent Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) but when audiences saw Soviet agent Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) they liked the pairing so much that the producers kept the team-up for the rest of the series. The show was so successful and influential (and also apparently quite believable) that though fictional, achieved such cultural prominence that props, costumes and documents, and a video clip are in theRonald Reagan Presidential Library's exhibit on spies and counterspies. Similar U.N.C.L.E. exhibits are in the museums of the Central Intelligence Agency and other US agencies and organizations gathering intelligence.

He's supposed to save her but she's no damsel in distress. ©Warner Bros. Pictures

So it was a pretty big deal this show was. And the series has been parodied or referred to in many, many other TV series and movies ever since. So how come it took so long for a new generation of audience to get to know it again or for it to receive a reboot? Well, according to the Wikipedia page for it this movie has been in pre-production limbo for about 20 years going through dozens of scripts and actors until Guy Ritchie signed up to direct it. The list of big name actors that wanted to join the production and take on the roles of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin was pretty incredible, you can read up on that here.

Anyway, Guy Ritchie's take on the old TV series isn't anything new or fresh. It's still basically the odd couple paired up to fight a common enemy. If you've read the synopsis up there or seen the trailer you know what the story is all about. SO WHAT MAY FOLLOW NEXT IS A FEW SPOILERS. DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU. 

So getting over the Berlin Wall was as easy as this. Makes you wonder what the big deal was all about. ©Warner Bros. Pictures

Napoleon Solo is an American agent, whose only reason for being an agent is because he got caught stealing, trading and selling rare art and other stuff in the black market and being quite famous for doing it, so the CIA struck a deal with him. On his most recent mission, to help liberate a young lady from the wrong side of the Berlin Wall he is almost thwarted by a Russian Agent named Illya Kuryakin which at that point he had no idea who he is or what his name is. Later after successfully completing his mission he goes on a walk with his CIA handler who takes him to a public lavatory where he is physically manhandled by Illya who it turns out will become his partner in an upcoming mission. The mission they are told is to go undercover with the recently liberated young lady Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) to Italy to meet with her uncle Rudi (Sylvester Groth) in order to find the whereabouts of her estranged father Udo (Christian Berkel) whom both the Americans and Russians believe are developing nuclear weapons for Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) who wants to sell it to the surviving German Nazis. 

So the trio go about getting to know each others moves and personalities while they do their secret agent stuff at Victoria's party then later Napoleon and Illya break into Victoria's factory to find out where the nuclear is hidden and then much later Gaby spills the beans on both of them which results in Napoleon being captured then tortured by Rudi while Illya runs around trying to figure out what's going on and finding out where they've taken Napoleon. Meanwhile, Gaby is taken to the Vinciguerra island to reunite with her estranged father. 

A bunch of guys have a clandestine meeting at a public lavatory. These days the guys that do that aren't out to save the world. ©Warner Bros. Pictures

When Illya finally rescues Napoleon they are later introduced to Alexander Waverly (Hugh Grant) a representative of British Intelligence who they've been told is now in charge of the mission. Waverly tells them both that Gaby is actually a British agent who was told to spill the beans on them in order to get the Vinciguerra's to trust her and take her to her father. But now that she's on the island with her father their mission is to go in and rescue her and her father if possible and to get the computer disk of the nuclear weapon as well as the weapons themselves at all cost. The mission doesn't go as well as they'd like when they discover that Victoria has made of with the bomb that has the uranium in it and the computer disk whereas after chasing after Victoria's husband Alexander (Luca Calvani) all they have is a dummy bomb and the back-up computer disk.

Back at their base of operations which happens to be on a British aircraft carrier, they are told that intelligence suspects that Victoria may have taken off on a boat earlier in the day along with hundreds of other boats setting out to see to catch fish. So with the help of the harbour master they radio the boat Napoleon believes Victoria is on and a little chit chat between them happens right up to the point when Napoleon tells her that while they were talking the crew of the aircraft carrier have pinpointed her location courtesy of a system in the bombs she had made which enables the bombs to sort of follow each other to cause massive damage. Napoleon tells her that the second bomb is now on its way to her just seconds before it obliterates her and everything within earshot of her. 

At the steps near the Trevi Fountain, everyone goes there so why not secret agents? ©Warner Bros. Pictures

With Victoria gone they prepare to go their separate ways when Illya gets a call from his handler that he must retrieve the computer disk that Napoleon has at all cost. So Illya heads to Napoleon's room but just as he's about to do the deed Napoleon gives him his father's watch back which he retrieved while on the island raid. Illya had the watch taken from him while in Rome. This changes Illya's mind and they both agree to destroy the computer disk and anything on it instead of giving it to either of their bosses. While on the veranda having a drink and watching the data burn to a crisp Waverly shows up and tells them that they've both been re-assigned to work under him in a new agency. 

The end.

Every bad guy in every secret agent type movie has a secret room which is discovered courtesy of a stupid henchmen or by pure luck. Sometimes the agents are smart. ©Warner Bros. Pictures

So a British actor plays an American agent while an American actor plays a Russian agent... 

Also this movie of  a popular American TV series is directed by a British director. How good could it be? Well, if you know Guy Ritchie then you know his films are generally entertaining and pretty well received even if they're not particularly high brow and sophisticated in nature. The one thing you can expect from a Guy Ritchie movie is that it'll be visually entertaining with interesting shots, angles and set-ups. You'll also get a film that's edited perfectly to keep the story moving along at a goodly pace and of course music plays a pretty big role in his movies too. And that's what you're getting with this movie. 

The story as I mentioned before is nothing new or original, it's your typical secret agent stuff with lots of sneaking and breaking into places and beating, shooting at people and of course motorized chases. But because it's Guy Ritchie at the helm it's done with his usual flair. The movie is beautiful to watch, from the camera work to the wardrobe to the backdrops everything looks very cool and retro. It's as if those pictures from those 60's glamour magazines came to life. 

How much more Italian could this scene be? Also how many more Vespas will be sold after this movie? ©Warner Bros. Pictures

The action is also well done. Loved the car chases, the boat chase and the final motorcycle-4WD-all-terrain buggy chase at the end. 

But it all would have been a lot less entertaining if it weren't for the lead actors. Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander were nothing short of fun to watch. The chemistry between Henry and Armie I thought worked beautifully. They both looked perfectly suited to their roles. 

The music too was incredible. It drove the movie as much as the story, the acting and the editing did. It got my foot tapping a couple of times. 

Right at the end these three are told that they're now part of a new secret organization. Sort of explains the looks on their faces right? ©Warner Bros. Pictures

To cut things short, I'm saying I liked this movie a lot. After the disappointments of the last few movies this was a true gem of a film. It's the perfect popcorn movie. You just sit back shut off your brain and just watched. It makes me think of the action movies that we used to get way back in the 80's and 90's. Just pure fun from start to finish and fun from all angles, except for of course the story. But who can be original these days? And after all it's a movie based on a TV series from the 60's about secret agents during the cold war, there's been so many stories and films set in that genre and era that I think it's near impossible to come up with a completely original story that can be believable as well. 

Anyway, like I said I liked this movie. A no-brainer action movie done really well. Simple story done with great style and a kick-ass soundtrack. It's a rare thing these days. So I'll gladly give this movie a 4 out of 5 because I'm a sucker for a good one of those. I'm hoping that Guy Ritchie gets a chance to do another one with the same team. He's left it wide open at the end. 

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