Rating: 3.75 out of 5.00
I am not giving the film a 4 because of the plot, but its style and repartee (missing out on some heavily animated modern films) makes a score of 3 unfairly low.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) was originally a TV series which ran in the 1960s—long before the craze of Star Wars and just about the same time as the heyday of Doctor Who and other science fiction shows. But it remained on my movie list this year out of curiosity. The spy comedy was officially taken on as a project by director Guy Ritchie in 2013, and he finally crafted this Henry Cavill-starrer for release this year.
Now that the film is out, I must say, all his efforts paid off albeit some flaws in substance or plot originality. We are mostly, after all, worked up about James Bond and Mission Impossible. Those two have raised the bar in spy films. Tom Cruise was originally casted to play Napoleon Solo here, but had to back out due to his MI duties.
If I may liken The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to a meal, it’s the stylishly plated type that has a generic taste, substance-wise. Despite that, it manages to still render its own appeal. It’s styled in all the right places. The first sequence was in media res without really reeling you in with extensive imagery; the unending repartee among the three characters is solidly original, the soundtrack is quite spot on for the setting that it tries to recreate, and it exudes a trip-down-memory-lane kind of vibe, though some critics argue that real life post World War 2 Germany and Europe did not exactly afford to look that stylish.
On my end, I think it’s still worth the trip to the mall. Warner Brothers Philippines prepared a spy-fi screening, and I watched it together with a companion at the spacious IMAX theater in SM Megamall, marveling at the nice facilities.
Before the screening, I saw fellow bloggers, press members, some movie buffs from the circa 1960s, good food, and two interesting gentlemen named Timzster and Gerard.
The two took the experience to the next level and dressed up as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the American and Russian spy characters in the show, with a promise to do the same in the upcoming Batman versus Superman film:
Warning: Spoilers begin right here. Do not read beyond this point if you intend to watch the film without spoilers.
Much as I enjoyed the film’s well-crafted dialogue among characters, sometimes the plot direction feels like a cliché. It did help that it was so stylish and extremely funny. You will not lose things to laugh about while you are inside the theatre. However, if I were to line it up with other spy films that have a rabid following, it will not exactly be on the top of the list. It might be, however, on the list that I am inclined to watch again if I need a good laugh or if I need some refreshing sights of Rome.
Image: Official The Man from UNCLE Facebook Page
Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander had good chemistry, and Hammer’s ultra restrained style balanced the stereotypical bachelor-type spy persona embodied by Cavill’s role.
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
I do commend the big baddie Victoria Vinciguerra, portrayed by Simona Caparrini, for the mix of cold-blooded and ethereal beauty. Overall, they could have selected a more formidable opponent coupled with a less overused story arc (nuclear bomb defusion). Though she does not rise to the level of efficient coolness that a Robin Wright (aka Mrs. Claire Underwood in Netflix’s House of Cards series) can do on screen, she still held her own until she got blown off.
As far as being resident baddie for this revival, she did it much better than her male partners in uranium crime.
The end part seems to suggest a sequel. Will I watch it another Man from U.N.C.L.E.? It has its flaws, but yes, I see myself watching another installment. I do hope they concoct a better plot for the sequel or at least get a chance to do so. The mixed reviews globally seem to be swinging that prospect at the moment.
If you want a light date night that won’t give you too many headaches or help get your feet wet in the genre of spy-fi films, yes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the film for you.