The trilogy of 2015 spy movie reviews concludes! It’s The Man from UNCLE; please don’t make me put those periods between each letter. As it turns out, this was a really great movie–in fact, it’s my #1 movie of the year! I’m bummed that not many people gave this one a shot, but I suppose it’s understandable when there were other bigger-name spy movies all coming out the same year. Be sure to pick up the DVD or Blu-Ray for this one though, it’s a lot of fun.
Apparently The Man from UNCLE was a TV show in the late 60’s, and suffice to say I knew nothing about it before seeing this film. The story is set in the sixties, smack-dab in the middle of the Cold War, and features a CIA agent and a KGB agent who have to work together in order to stop a greater terrorist threat to the world. In the case of this film, the antagonist is a sort of Lady Gaga with access to advanced nuclear weapon tech.
The characters in this are all really memorable. Great acting, and lots of great lines. Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo really hams it up, as this professional thief-turned-secret agent is the sort of character who is smooth as butter and is proud of it. Meanwhile Armie Hammer(!) as Ilya Kuryakin is the epitome of straightforward Russian bruiser who won’t put up with anyone’s shit. If this sounds like the makings of some wacky spy-themed shenanigans, you’d certainly be correct–but the film is not exactly what I’d call a parody. (Well, maybe an affectionate parody.) It’s a very self-aware adaptation of what was likely a pretty cheesy ’60s TV show, and the biggest strength of the film is definitely the portrayal of its two leads and the way they interact with each other. From enemies, to reluctant teammates whose personalities clash violently, and on to… total bros? Maybe… not quite, but you get the gist.
Rounding out the cast of protagonists is Alicia Vikander as Gabriella Teller, another fun character who ends up with a plot twist or two to spice things up plot-wise. She is the key to uncovering the machinations of the aforementioned villainess, Elizabeth Debicki as Victoria Vinciguerra–who again, is very memorable. While the personalities of characters like her would come off as over-the-top in a regular action film, here in UNCLE it’s all fun and games, and none of it feels out of place.
Compared to Spectre and Rogue Nation, UNCLE is a great deal less action-packed, but also a great deal more stylish and quirky. This is an equation I am all for, and the end result in UNCLE’s case is a film that is really easy to get into thanks to its infectious characters and their amusing dialogues with one another. The cinematography also had a bit of an experimental feel to it? Odd choices of music for some scenes, and strange juxtaposition of camera shots for others.
But in the end, and especially after a second viewing, it all feels just right. It’s great stuff, and the best example of this can be enjoyed in what I would have to call a complete(?) deconstruction of the Hollywood action sequence. I don’t want to give it away, but let’s just say it involves Solo in a car, and Kuryakin in a motorboat. You’ll know it when you see it, lol. Definitely the best scene of 2015.