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

Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia, Vikander
Directed By: Guy Ritchie
Written By: Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram, based on the television series by Sam Rolfe
Warner Bros., 2015
PG-13; 116 minutes
4.5 stars (out of 5)


When this movie came out, I avoided reviews that would give away the plot, but I did see one question pop up again and again: Who is this movie for?

The teens and young adults, or new adults, or whatever they're calling them this week, won't have any reference for this movie, and the older viewers ostensibly weren't going to find the show they loved in this film franchise. I can't speak to the latter because I've never seen the show. I don't know how much like the show this film is or isn't. I can only guess that it has about as much in common with the source material as Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes does to Doyle. It's there to an extent and punched up in a lot of weird ways.

Still, as someone who'd never seen the show, I really did enjoy the movie. Okay, it has some big sins. Lots of exposition in dialogue (spy movies get away with that through "debriefings"), and then also some backstory written on the screen. But at least there's no voiceover narration, right?

As for the plot, it's fairly straight forward (and they explain it as they go along anyway). In a nutshell, the Russians and Americans team up to get information about an Italian family that is supposedly harboring a scientist who is developing a nuclear warhead. The whole thing is set during the Cold War, of course, and the opening credits are a quickie history lesson for those who didn't live through it.

This looks like a Guy Ritchie movie, by which I mean, if I hadn't know who'd directed it, I would've guessed without too much trouble. But I like Guy Ritchie movies, so . . . Cool.

Some of the humor is a little flat. They go for easy, predictable jokes. They try a little too hard in places. Yet they manage to avoid falling into parody or camp. It is a surprisingly satisfying balance that they strike.

And what Ritchie seems to do remarkably well in all his movies is to assemble a cast that has real chemistry. They're fun to watch, and the audience feels in a way they're joining in. RDJ and Jude Law have it, and Cavill and Hammer do, too. Which is why I'm really sorry this film didn't do better at the box office because I'd absolutely keep coming back for more.

So the answer to that first question is: People like me.

Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of those.

No comments: