Monday, September 21, 2015

Movie Review - The Man From U.N.C.L.E

The success of the early James Bond movies in the early 1960's spawned a host of spy movies and television shows. One of the best (at least in the early years) was "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." which ran from 1964 to 1968.  Now of course I was only 13 years old when this show premiered so I might not know what I'm talking about.

Now we have a new "The Man From U.N.C.L.E" movie.

The movie is sort of an origin story. In the TV show, the U.N.C.L.E organization already existed and Solo and Kuryakin were already partners and had apparently worked out any animosities between them.

In the movie, Napoleon Solo works for the CIA and Illya Kuryakin works for the KGB. Solo, as played by Harry Cavill, is a suave, urbane, well-dressed lady-killer, pretty much as played by Robert Vaughn in the TV show. Kuryakin is played by Armie Hammer. He's a big, quiet-seeming Russian who's apt to fly off the handle at any moment. Not quite the David McCallum Kuryakin I remember.

The two are ordered by their respective masters to work together on a threat that endangers both countries. If you've seen the trailers, you know that some former Nazi scientist (it's 1963 so we can still have Nazis) has perfected a way to produce weapon grade uranium much easier that it can even be done today. The big enemy in the TV show was T.H.R.U.S.H. Maybe they will show up in the second movie. Do you know that T.H.R.U.S.H was supposed to mean? For that matter, to you know what U.N.C.L.E means?

The movie was pretty good. The only real problem with it is that it's set in 1963 so we pretty much know that the world wasn't destroyed by some Nazis with atomic weapons. The movie has to create a plausible (and entertaining) way to get to the ending we fully expect. It was no less plausible than you might expect and it was pretty entertaining. It is played pretty straight, it's not meant to be a spoof on 1960s spy shows. At least I don't think it is. If it is, they missed by a wide margin.

For the most part, the movie succeeds. In the early part of the movie there is a little too much animosity between Solo and Kuryakin. Solo treats Kuryakin with open contempt and Kuryakin can hardly stop himself from punching Solo in the nose for it. Solo calls him "The Red Peril", or Peril for short, Kuryakin calls Solo, Cowboy (what else?).

Nothing builds team work like getting shot at, almost drowned, tortured, and betrayed together and saving each other's lives several times. You know where this relationship is going and they did a good job of it. Solo gets lot of female bed time, while Kuryakin never even gets a kiss.

U.N.C.L.E is not even mentioned until the very end of the movie when Mr. Waverly (played by Hugh Grant). tells them that they are now on his team and they're leaving tonight on another mission.

Harry Cavill is already in one movie franchise, Superman. The Man From U.N.C.L.E looks like it has a good shot at becoming a franchise. Armie Hammer was last seen as The Lone Ranger, which badly wanted to be a franchise but was so terrible I don't expect to see a sequel.

Oh, and by the way, the soundtrack is fabulous.

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