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Evan Wheatley's Movie Reviews (20)

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 
Brings back characteristics of old spy movies
3/4 stars

In the midst of the dark and gritty movies that have characterized the 2000s, it’s nice to see Superman and the Lone Ranger team up for a 1960s spy throwback.

Napolean Solo (Henry Cavill) is a suave, carefree thief turned spy, tasked with extracting Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) from East Berlin for the CIA. During the escape, Solo and Teller evade KGB agent Illya Kuryakin and report back to Solo’s superiors, only to find out that the KGB and CIA have reluctantly teamed up. Solo and Kuryakin are forced to work together to stop a wealthy couple from using Teller’s father to build their own nuclear weapon.

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” brings nothing new to the table in terms of its structure. Two good guys with conflicting personalities are forced to work together to take down the bad guys. Add in some classic spy elements and a pinch of action, and you’ve got yourself a nice summer blockbuster.

Guy Ritchie’s stylistic direction coupled with Cavill and Hammer’s on screen chemistry make up for the film’s lack of substance. Referring to each other as ‘cowboy,’ and ‘The Red Peril,’ the two leads humorously characterize the stereotypical depiction of 1960s American and Russian spies. Hammer’s subdued, hardened persona compliments the James Bond-like charm of Cavill. Vikander delivers a solid performance as well. There’s more to her character than meets the eye. Delicate yet strong-willed, she adds a nice dynamic to the trio.

While the plot is one of the film’s weaker aspects, Ritchie executes the few twists and turns it takes well, even if some of them are predictable. He does this primarily through showing small parts of a scene, leading you to think that a situation plays out one way, when it actually played out much differently, revealed later when the entire scene is shown. Ritchie uses this technique a few times in the movie, and while this may become tiresome for some viewers, I thought it was interesting, and it kept me on my toes throughout the film’s runtime.

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E” harkens back to the beats of older spy movies. The characters do not take themselves too seriously. Solo causes women to swoon left and right as he cracks jokes about Kuryakin’s Russian traits. Teller slowly breaks down Kuryakin’s hard demeanor, and he manages to crack a few jokes of his own. The opening action scene matches this tone and sets the stage for a perfect action throwback.

As the story progresses however, there are moments where the film takes itself too seriously and the action is filmed differently to appeal to a modern audience. These infrequent tone shifts clash with the overall feel the movie is trying to convey, and this detracted from my enjoyment of the film.

That being said, Ritchie does know how to create tension during the more serious moments, and transfers the emotions his characters are feeling to the viewer, primarily those of Kuryakin. In one particular scene, the feeling of betrayal is evident in the dimly lit close-ups of his face. The ominous ringing of church bells paired with silent shots of him tearing up a room out of rage is unsettling and conveys the anger of Kuryakin effectively to the audience.

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E” is not an Oscar contender. It is not the next cinematic masterpiece that you should rush out to see. The film serves its purpose as a sleek and fun action movie, and I had a blast watching it.

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