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Triumph In U.N.C.L.E.

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Partially Thanks To Setting The Drama In Cold War Battlefronts In The 1960s, The Film Is Both Accessible And Well Made By Director Ritchie


By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

Aug. 12, 2015 — The summer movie season is coming to a close, and it has been full of reboots, sequels and franchises that were enjoyable in their own right, but after several months of watching cities get destroyed, a change of pace is nice. Enter The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Most people will go into this film not even realizing, let alone ever having watched, the 1960s show that it was based on. So, even though it is something of a reboot, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Guy Ritchie hasn’t directed a film since 2011’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows and this feels like it is much more in his classic wheelhouse, as opposed to a big fancy studio movie (even though this is kind of a big fancy studio movie).

The plot centers around two of the world's top secret agents, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) from the United States and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) from Russia, who are forced to team up to stop a criminal organization that is planning on making nuclear weapons very accessible to the underbelly of the world. It is perhaps a bit stereotypical on the surface, but it really helps that it isn’t overcomplicated.

One of the most charming aspects of U.N.C.L.E. is that Ritchie decided to keep it set in the 60’s as opposed to trying to modernize the concept. In modern spy films, it is too easy to get trapped in the world of fancy technology and absurdly complex plots. U.N.C.L.E. feels more like a classic Bond film than it does a modern spy film. That is what helps the film stand out against the competition in a year that also includes a Mission Impossible and a James Bond movie.

Cavill and Hammer have great chemistry together, but Cavill really manages to steal the show. He didn’t have any problem ditching the Superman persona that everyone recognizes him for in order to become incredibly charming and slyly funny. Hammer also delivers, and his performance is arguably a bit more of a stretch, compared to what he is accustomed to doing. Hammer was once scheduled to play Batman but had the rug pulled out from under him and was in one of the biggest box office bombs in recent memory, The Lone Ranger. Watching this, it is easy to imagine that if things went differently, he would be on par with someone like Channing Tatum.

The rest of the cast, per usual in a Ritchie movie, is spot on. Alicia Vikander is a breath of fresh air in in terms of female performances as Gaby. Even though her character is caught in an era that wasn’t nearly as kind to women, she manages to be a strong female character while still maintaining a womanly charm. Sylvester Groth, Jared Harris and Elizabeth Debicki are all great as well. Ritchie even threw Hugh Grant a bone and let him show up for 10 minutes or so.

U.N.C.L.E. feels like the perfect film to bridge the gap between the summer and fall film seasons. It is an action movie, but it isn’t bogged down with it. It is much more stylistic and clever than your average popcorn and soda blockbuster. It feels like most Ritchie films in that it is just cool, plain and simple. Cool is actually the best way to describe this film.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a fun, cool movie that manages to be very accessible without having to dumb itself down and play to the lowest common denominator, and that is a serious accomplishment in Hollywood’s current landscape.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will open Friday, Aug. 14. Click here for Showtimes.

Ryan Scott is a contributor to Modern Times Magazine. He lives in Mesa.
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