Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) Review:

Although during the mid 1900s filmmakers were beginning to expand their range of experimentation in their projects, things were still very separate. Many genres during the time stuck within their boundaries. If you made a drama, it stuck to the highlights of personal conflict. If it was a sci-fi film, it focused more on the futuristic aspects of it. The same went for action, horror and comedy films respectively. As the 1980s rolled around, genres began mixing even more. One of the more popular hybrids of the time was the buddy cop genre, which was the fusion of the action and comedy. Now when it comes to adding in another genre to the recipe, that can get tricky. Depending on who's writing, trying to find an even blend for more than one category is not easy. The idea is to produce a product that appeals to each fan of the particular style without alienating them simultaneously. For director Guy Ritchie, it seems that making a feature length movie to the TV show of the same name seemed like no problem considering his previous works.

"Got your tux from Brooks Brothers huh?"
Before this comedic action spy film, Guy Ritchie also directed Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Snatch (2000), which were action comedies and the Sherlock Holmes (2009) series, which were action spy films. Written by Lionel Wigram (Sherlock Holmes (2009)) and also Ritchie, this spy action comedy successfully sets out what it was made to do and that's blending all the genres evenly together. During the Cold War era, American professional thief Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Russian professional KGB spy Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are paired up under their ruling nations to try and stop a unknown organization from distributing nuclear warheads. As far as overall execution goes, most of it is straightforward. Only occasionally does the plot get muddled with information for no real reason. This happens when information is being passed between informants. In some ways it's understood that the writers are trying to make this information hard to attain but it does feel overly convoluted.

Co-starring with the two main leads are Gaby (Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina (2015)) as their main ticket of getting access to the unknown organization because her uncle Rudi (Sylvester Groth) being connected to them. Suspected of possessing the warheads is Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki, The Great Gatsby (2013)) for being related to a World War II fascist. In it's entirety, almost all main characters receive the development they require in order for the audience to understand them. Of the cast, the top three rightfully go to Cavill, Hammer and Vikander. Hammer and Cavill have great chemistry for the bickering duo that they are. What's great is not only that they don't like each other because of each other knowing their partners' background, but also for the fact that one is Russian and the other is American. Working with the enemy probably is not a job anybody wants to do. The buddy cop trope of opposite personalities exists but instead of it being shown in attire it is demonstrated through personality, which is different.

Cavill plays it cool and slick, while Hammer plays it brash and hot tempered. These are two extreme opposites yet they both get the job done and that's extraordinary. This also helps in the comedic delivery because of how well they bounce their zingers off each other. Vikander also works because of her ability to be her own character and have her own moments. That also means she doesn't need Cavill or Hammer's character to support her; she can actually manage her own. The action is nicely stylized as well. More of this element goes hand-in-hand with the spy genre where Solo and Kuryakin are required to go around as other characters. Another situation might be when the two are trying to outrun another character so that they aren't caught and their cover is blown. It's crafty business and it looks fun with the energy put on screen. The only thing that may be a bit off putting is the costume design for the finale build up. The costume designer to this production was Joanna Johnston (Hellraiser (1987) & Forrest Gump (1994)).

Alicia Vikander
For the display on screen much of the color schemes and designs look very much like Cold War era clothing. Yet when it gets closer to the finale, Hammer and Cavill dress in military suits that resemble that of The Expendables (2010). The rest is fine though. The cinematography shot by John Mathieson is brightly lit and has plenty of landscape to see whether it's urban or rural terrain. The musical score provided by composer Daniel Pemberton is interesting too. Although he doesn't have a main theme for the franchise itself, he does give separate themes for the characters. An example would be Kuryakin where every time he gets angry. But even this, Pemberton also creates a score very close to that of what someone would hear from the era. It's psychedelic and also relaxing to listen to. Pemberton also includes drums and timpani for various action cues although they are a not as memorable as the other tracks mentioned before. However, this is largely a solid effort that should not be ignored.

Its main leads have natural chemistry thanks to some adequate writing. It does however suffer from infrequent times when the plot can get confusing for no reason because of it being in the spy genre. But it's not much to say when the music and visuals to the movie add to the style of how closely it matches the era that its source material spawned from. The action is also fun seeing how the characters get around.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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