Monday, August 3, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E

Proving yet again that Hollywood is out of ideas, we have another movie made form a TV show. I was never a fan of the TV show so I was only mildly interested, however Guy Ritchie is an outstanding storyteller and makes this formulaic TV story into something outstanding. This film highlights Ritchie's masterful skill at blending just the right amount of action with story and emotion. I appreciated the dedication to the vintage time period. it feels like if the filmmakers from the 60s had access to today’s technology, this would totally be a move they would have made.

Art thief Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is recruited by the CIA to work for them in exchange for not going to jail. He is partnered with a KGB operative, Illya Kuryakin (Arnie Hammer)  to find and stop a maniacal villain, Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki) from launching a nuclear weapon. With the help of a girl, Gaby (Alicia Vlkander) from East Berlin whose father is being held captive to work on the bomb. Together they work to save the world.

The setting is the cold war and they did a perfect job of fitting in with that time period. The costumes and set design are one thing, but the choice of font for subtitles blends in with that time period perfectly. They even took some of screen division elements from the TV show. You know the ones where we see one protagonist looking one way, and only on the top half of the screen and the other protagonist looking the other way occupying the bottom of the screen. They both split further and the bad guy is looking directly at the screen. The animated series Samurai Jack used this technique well.

I enjoyed the way that they sometimes back tracked on a scene, showing what is happening all at the same time. The end is a great example of this. We see events unfold from one point of view. Then we see them from a different character’s POV, and again from a different character. All of the events happened simultaneously but we are now seeing what everyone was doing right before the final outcome, with the scenes edited together without confusing the audience is a challenge. They did a great job of it.

I have yet to see Guy Ritchie movie that I didn't like. Unlike the other directors of today he seems to have gift for adding just the right amount of everything. He has a knack for pace and for blending all the elements together to make a highly entertaining film. His choice of performers is outstanding as well. The three stars of the film work really well together on screen. They have a great chemistry that makes it enjoyable to watch.

Armie Hammer's portrayal of Illya is perfect. He has the intensity of a hard Russian spy but enough subtle vulnerabilities that make him interesting. As the straight man to Solo's sense of humor he gives a lot of great material to play off of. Henry Cavil's Agent Solo is extremely American. Every line he delivers is like he is making an announcement at a pageant. Every line is dripping with roguish charm.

When I was a kid, I saw the show in reruns but it never held my interest, maybe now that I'm older I should give this series another look. Or maybe Guy Ritchie took a dull series and made it entertaining.

What TV shows did you look at in a different light after they were put on the big screen? 

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