The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

PLOT:

In 1963 East Berlin, Napoleon Solo tracks down Gabby Teller, a woman working in an auto shop. Solo tells her that he is with the American government and knows that Gabby’s father is a Nazi scientist who had worked for the U.S. government but went missing. He needs Gabby to set up a meeting with her uncle, Rudi, to find her father. They leave and are quickly chased by Illya Kuryakin, a top KGB agent who impresses Solo by his dogged pursuit and nearly stopping their car by hand. In the end, Solo manages to whisk Gabby over the Berlin Wall into West Berlin, with Illya left behind.

The following day, Solo meets his handler, Sanders, in a park’s men’s room where Kuryakin is waiting. The two fight it out before Sanders and his KGB counterpart Oleg stop them to announce the two are now partners. It appears that Rudi works for an Italian shipping company owned by Alexander and Victoria Vinciguerra, the latter the true brains of the operation, whose father was suspected of smuggling Nazi gold out of Europe to Argentina after WWII ended. The two are planning to use Gabby’s father to create their own private nuclear weapon. The KGB and CIA insist the two agents work together although each man is under private orders to steal the important computer data for their respective governments. In a private talk, the two men detail what they know of each other. Solo was a former U.S. soldier who turned to art theft, stealing and selling antiques and artwork across Europe. Finally captured, the CIA felt he was too valuable to waste in prison and offered him to work off his sentence for them. Kuryakin’s father was a former high-ranking aide for Stalin but convicted of embezzling funds and sent to Siberia, with Illya prone to streaks of violent behavior because of that.

Gabby is not happy to learn that her cover is to introduce Kuryakin as her architect fiancé but Solo insists they go on. In Rome, Kuryakin is tested by a pair of goons who steal his father’s watch and he forces himself not to fight them. Solo hooks up with the hotel desk clerk while Gabby tempts Kuryakin with drinking, dancing and some wrestling but passes out before they can go any further. The next morning, both men confront one other with how each had planted listening devices in the other’s room. At a race track party, Solo steals an invitation off of a man called Waverly and impresses Victoria with his skills as a thief by stealing her own jewelry. He offers her help in “filling the gaps” in her art collection. Kuryakin is offended by Rudi putting down Russians and takes out his anger by beating up a trio of men in a bathroom. Gabby flirts with Alexander before the group leaves. Checking secret photos he took, Kuryakin finds evidence Victoria and Alexander were by radiation and theorizes the bomb must be close.

That night, both men find each other breaking into the shipping yard and reluctantly work together. They discover a safe which Solo opens but the uranium is already gone. They are chased by guards into the nearby bay, Kuryakin leading the enemy boat while Solo ends up on shore to have a quiet dinner in a truck. He then drives the truck to crush the enemy boat and helps save Illya. Hearing of the break-in, Victoria goes to the hotel but Solo manages to return to his room before she does, and seduces her into sex. The next day, Solo meets with Victoria as Gabby meets with Rudi and Alexander at their mansion with Kuryakin following. He overhears Gabby tell the two men of the real mission and barely escapes. Alerted, Victoria drugs Solo and he wakes up in a private room with Rudi who turns out to be an infamous Nazi torturer. Rudi uses an electric chair to torture Solo but Kuryakin arrives to rescue him. Tied to the chair, Rudi tells them the bomb is being kept at an island fortress. The two men argue over what to do with Rudi but a short-circuit causes the chair to electrocute the Nazi so badly that he bursts into flames. At the island, Gabby meets her father and they attempt to sabotage the bomb but are caught by Victoria. Victoria forces Gabby’s father to complete the bomb, hand over both copies of the data, and then kills him.

Solo and Kuryakin meet with Waverly, who turns out to be a British agent, revealing that Gabby has been working for British intelligence for two years and the CIA and KGB nearly ruined the operation to find her father. The two men lead an attack on the island as Alexander drives the bomb and Gabby away on a jeep. Solo follows in a dune buggy while Kuryakin chases on a motorcycle, both men managing to crash the jeep. Alexander nearly kills Solo but is stabbed to death by Kuryakin. It turns out the missile is not the nuclear one and they worry Victoria will get away. However, Solo figures out she is using her father’s old fishing boat to smuggle the nuke to a sub where her Nazi allies are waiting. Solo tricks Victoria into issuing threats to him and uses the radio signal to have the missile they possess to be fired from an aircraft carrier and destroy the boat.

In Rome, Kuryakin reluctantly says goodbye to Gabby. He hears from Oleg on how Solo still has a copy of the data disc and, enraged, goes to kill Solo and get it. Solo responds by throwing back Kuryakin’s watch, which he took off a guard at the island. The two men decide to destroy the disc rather than let either of their countries get a major advantage. Waverly and Gabby find them as they were about to leave, informing them that they are now working for him and his new organization: U.N.C.L.E

REVIEW:

What better way to end the summer movie season than with an action filled spy comedy? Ok, there are other alternatives. One could go see that abomination that masquerades itself as the Fantastic Four, but I hear it isn’t that good. I chose to have fun at the movies and check out The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Having never seen the original TV show, I have nothing to compare it to, so no bias here.

What is this about?

Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s period of the Cold War, the film centers on U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. The two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization led by Victoria Vinciguerra, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo’s only lead is Gaby Teller, the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time utilizing her connections and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

What did I like?

Swinging 60s. I’ve come to realize that I am a sucker for period pieces. Well, period pieces set in eras that I actually care about. When I heard they were making this, the first thing that popped in my head was the fear it would be set in modern times which, obviously, would have been a big mistake. The film takes joy in its 60s setting, capitalizing on the clothes, cars, and music available at the time, as well as the, shall we say, simplistic technology of the time. All of this comes together in glorious package that I doubt would have worked so well in today’s world.

Heroic team up. Superman and the Lone Ranger fighting crime together. Doesn’t that sound like it would be awesome? I’m sure someone somewhere has thought of it, especially since I think those shows were on around the same time. We may not get the epic team up on screen, but we do get the actors together and, surprisingly, they have some great chemistry. Henry Cavill’s Napoleon Solo is, for all intents and purposes, a poor man’s James Bond. I feel Cavill watched a lot of John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, and maybe a bit of Adam West for this character. Why? Well, he has this way of speaking which is unnatural for modern ears, but if you listen to people talk from this era, it fits. Some may not like it, but they can get over it. Armie Hammer appears to have bulked up some since we last saw him on screen. Taking a Russian accent and basically being a super soldier he seems to be the emotional one of the team, whether it is his connection to his father’s watch, falling for the girl, or just controlling his temper. These are two guys that have that dapper 60s look naturally, which is probably why they were cast. The fact that they have such great chemistry is a bonus that we all can savor as we sit back and enjoy the ride.

No point. I think it was about half way through the film when I realized that there hadn’t been any references to anything in the 60s. What makes me bring that up? Well, usually in films based on TV shows, especially the ones set in a different era, they go out of their way to point out something that relates to that period. I don’t think that is done once in the picture and I, for one, am so glad for it. It is obvious this is the 60s, no need to bring everything to a halt just to bring up Woodstock, the Kennedy assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Moon landing, etc.

What didn’t I like?

Plot. This is not a film that is meant to make you use your brain, let’s get that straight. It is, however, a film that could have used a couple of twists and turns. As it is the plot, two spies on opposites sides team up to stop a nuclear bomb, is very predictable. The one swerve turned out to be a non-swerve, and every time it seemed like something happened to spice things up, we would get a flashback that showed parts of the scene we didn’t see. Guy Ritchie is well-known for his stylistic vision, but once again, his writing flaws are the downfall.

Big dudes. Have you ever seen a big, athletic guy from the 60s? They really aren’t that big, honestly. Why do I bring this up? Well, looking at Hammer and Cavill, and spurred on by a comment in a review I listened to earlier this week, I noticed they are rather big for the time. Now, Cavill, obviously gets some slack because he’s Superman. I think this might have been right after or before filming for Batman vs. Superman, so his physique couldn’t change too much. Hammer, doesn’t have that luxury. I’m still trying to figure out why he suddenly looked so buff. He needed to look like the guys on Mad Men (probably the best example today of what the 60s were like), specifically Jon Hamm. He’s a somewhat bigger guy, but not huge.

Villainess. I wasn’t sold on Elizabeth Debicki as the villain. To me, she came off as a pissed off Paris Hilton. It wasn’t until Cavill told her that he had killed her husband that she seemed to be the villain this film deserves, but by then it was too late. Maybe if she would have had some motivation, the audience could buy into her. As it is, she’s just the token antagonist.

I feel like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is going to be forgotten quickly. Not because it is bad, but because it was released at a bad time. The theater I was in had maybe 10 people in it, and most of them straggled in late. Everyone seemed to be going to see Straight Outta Compton. The fact that this was only playing on 2 screens compared to the 8 for the other one is quite telling, as well. Still, this is a quality, enjoyable film that will probably (hopefully) go on to a long life on DVD/Blu-ray. Maybe it will become a cult classic. The music, action, style, look, everything makes this a film that cannot be missed. I highly recommend it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

  1. […] as the villain in so many American movies. Back in the day and in period films such as the recent The Man from U.N.C.L.E. are one thing, but this is set in modern day. Last I checked, while things aren’t exactly […]

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