Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing*
CSFD listing* listing* listing* listing* listing*

CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (J.Hassenger) review (V. Limberk) review* (J. Zabaluev) review* (Press Spiegel) reviews*
Rossiyskaya Gazeta (D. Sochovskiy) review*

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. [2015] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Guy Richie along with Lionel Wigram, story by Guy Richie, Jeff Kleeman, Lional Wigram and David C. Wilson based on the television series [1965-68] [IMDb] by Sam Rolfe) is the less "controversial" film coming-out in wide release this weekend, the other, edgier film being Straight Outta Compton [2015].  And I have to say that I enjoyed (indeed LOVED, read on...) this "lighter" / "safer" even if surely "more vanilla" film as well.

Though certainly more serious than the Get Smart [1965-70] [IMDb] television series, the current "U.N.C.L.E." film as well as the series that inspired it takes its lead with (and is partly a send-up of) the James Bond movies that were already so popular in the 1960s.

Like the Get Smart [1965-70] [IMDb] series, the U.N.C.L.E. [1965-68] [IMDb] series involved a battle between two great coalitions representing "Good" and "Evil."  In Get Smart, the Coalition for Good was called "Control" and the coalition for Evil was called "KAOS."  In U.N.C.L.E. the "Coaltion for Good" was indeed called U.N.C.L.E. (standing for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) and its opponent was a neo-Nazi ODESSA-like Coalition called T.H.R.U.S.H. (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity).

That the opponent of U.N.C.L.E. was a neo-Nazi ODESSA-like organization allowed both American / Western agents in general to work with Soviet (Russian) agents to work together _both_ in the original series and in the current film today.  This cooperation between East and West is a key distinguishing characteristic of the U.N.C.L.E series from pretty much all the others (in the West) of this genre: Ian Fleming's James Bond, Mel Brook's / Buck Hardy's Get Smart, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan and so forth.  Given renewed East-West tensions today, I do find the decision to try to reboot this _hopeful_ 60s-era series to be an unexpected joy and a reminder that just as Russia (then the Soviet Union) and the West cooperated in defeating Nazi Germany (and no-doubt frustrated any subsequent attempts at revival of race-based neo-Nazi empire building, no in this case, no one's 'crying' Argentina ...), Russia and the West have common interests even today, notably in fighting Islamic extremism / terrorism.  So there is undoubtedly contemporary value to the revival of this (then) hope-against-hope 1960s era spy-series.

Another _great joy_ in the revival of this 1960s era spy-series can be found in the drawing of the key characters (re)introduced in the film -- the super-competent / stylish yet slippery American CIA Agent "Napoleon Solo" (played with exquisite brashness by Henry Cavill), his huge, perhaps coming across initially as somewhat clumsy, but also arguably more straight-forward / honest KGB counterpart Illya Kuryakin (played again spot-on by Armie Hammer), an OMG she _steals_ the movie (!) mild-mannered East German "auto-mechanic" (agent) named Gaby (played wonderfully by Alicia Vikander) WHO'S PLAYING EVERYBODY (but SHE HAS TO ... SHE'S GERMAN in the middle of the Cold War ;-) and the ever smiling (but which way is he really going?) head of British Intelligence, Alexander Waverly (played again wonderfully/spot-on by, again, ever jovial / ever-smiling Hugh Grant).

Together they must break into a secretive neo-Nazi/Fascist ring led by an Italian Versaci-dressed bombshell named Victoria Vinciguerra (played again perfectly as a Bond-worthy villian by Elizabeth Debicki) and, it turns out, some of Gaby's old (past-Nazi) relatives "Uncle Rudi" (played with appropriate "I'm a member of the Aryan super-race and if you are not you don't deserve anything from me" Evil swarminess by Sylvester Groth) and as well as _her dad_, a scientist who just seemed to get mixed-up _way over his head_ (again...) into something increasingly/unbelievably Evil).  Much then had to ensue ... and it does ;-)

I'd also add that the COSTUMING (and even SET DESIGN) in this film are about as good as they get.  While this is a very "light" film, I DO HOPE that come Oscar Season, this film gets remembered with regards to COSTUME DESIGN in particular:  For every time that Gaby came-up on the screen, I kept thinking of my (Chicago Art Institute diploma-ed / accredited) dress-designing mom who was in her 20s-30s in the 1960s and pretty much made / wore _exactly_ (!) the kind of light dresses that Gaby wore throughout the film.  (Honestly, I found this aspect of the film AN ABSOLUTE JOY).

So what then to say about this film?  Perhaps it's more optimistic than reality (certainly then, but also now) would warrant/deserve.  But this is a lovely / LIGHT film that offers the possibility of looking for the best in each other's characters (or at least of most characters) rather than looking for the worst.

So honestly, great job folks!  Honestly, great and _positive_ job!

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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