Sunday, August 30, 2015

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

Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures
It's always great to see artist evolving, even if this process alienates some of their old fans. Guy Ritchie is definitely prone to evolution, but it’s obvious that the same process for him takes place in phases. His first phase started in 1998 with the cult classic Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, after which he developed his contemporary London crime phase. The same had some good films and some average ones, but it nonetheless ended with RocknRolla in 2008. 

After this, Ritchie moved the setting of his new phase backwards one century and developed two Sherlock Holmes films, which were both successful and impressive action flicks, having in mind the serious overuse of the original material in pop culture. Now, with The Man From U.N.C.L.E, the third phase of Guy Ritchie has begun and it brings style and substance on a completely new terrain for its director.

Sure, the film has nicely dressed, charming and witty main characters who are accustomed to guns, violence and far-fetched plans, but this time, it is all located in the 1960’s chic Europe, divided by the Cold War. In spite of their home agencies rivalry and feud, one US and one Soviet agent have to work together to stop a development of a diabolical plan that would place a nuclear weapon in hands of practically anyone.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is laden with style on all levels, from the costumes to the shots Guy Ritchie takes in a manner similar to 1960’s classics like the movie Point Blank. This can be seen in the way characters move both when it comes to their gestures and their positions in the frames. The film’s director was always willing to invest a lot of energy in the visual aesthetics of his works, but here, the idea is even more prominent and gripping. Yet, he manages to keep things unburdened by this, which is clearly shown in the quick and comic-like editing of the commando raid near the end of the movie, and the broken bike confrontation that quickly follows.

Here, Ritchie is ready to peel the onion of style and very effectively show the essence lying below it, where dangerous men are willing to kill for their mission, no questions asked. At the same time, like the ending segment of the boat sequence shows, the comedy essence is also never too far away. On a side note, with films like Spy and Kingsman: The Secret Service, it appears that the world is in a mini spy comedy Renaissance.

The cast of the film also works exceedingly well together. Henry Cavill looks like he was born to wear perfectly tailored suits and places inside of them a character that is the optimal combination of a slimeball and a kind of normal guy how was forced to work in the same area. Opposite of him, Armie Hammer as Illya continues to do his brand of characters (who are so serious that they are unintentionally funny) really well. The main female lead, Alicia Vikander, also does a nice job as Gaby, the East German car mechanics turned drafted spy.

As the movie glides through picturesque locations and the tension mounts, the audience is free to enjoy The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  as a new take on the classic James Bond film, minus the retro science fiction gadgets. It never bores and never meanders from its set goal of being a fun and stylish action comedy. Because of it, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Ritchie will do with his upcoming Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur.