HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
HTS Overall Score:80
A fair amount of modern spy movies have been adapted from much earlier works. James Bond was taken from Ian Fleming’s novels, “Mission Impossible” was taken from the same titled show of decades past, and even “The A-Team” had its beginnings from a long running television series. “I, Spy” also follows that little pattern, and then in comes “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, a decent spy thriller adapted from the 4 seasons of the same titled TV show, starring a gritty and rough CIA agent and his pairing with a hot headed and younger Russian KGB agent in joint missions. This time “Guy Ritchie” attempts the adaptation, and while he has the mechanics of the 60’s spy thriller down pat, he somehow manages to miss the draw of the original show, resulting in a rather entertaining, but ultimately hollow movie.
While the original TV series took place in the early 60s, we fast forward a bit to the middle of the cold war, where CIA super spy, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is sent into East Berlin to contribute to the defection of gorgeous mechanic, with a secret of her own, Gaby (played by the simply delicious Alicia Vikander) in order to find out where her biological father is building a nuclear device for some Italian neo fascists. While carrying out his mission, Solo and Gaby run into Russian KGB agent Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) who just so happens to ALSO be after Gaby. Escaping over the Berlin wall and effectively giving Ilya the finger, Solo and Gaby soon find out that they have to WORK together with the hotheaded KGB agent (under duress of course) in order track down her father.
With Ilya posing as Gaby’s fiancée, and Napoleon Solo as a rather douchey thief, the two spies and Gaby have to find out where her father is, get in to his location, and someone get the bomb and the research ON the bomb out in one piece. Simple, right? Well things get much more complicated when Solo becomes intertwined with a gorgeous dealer who just so happens to be their target, while Gaby and Ilya get a little warmer with each other. In between romantic trysts with every bond babe that he runs across and between every enraged moment that Ilya has to suppress, the pair do spy stuff, and get up to their necks in espionage. Espionage that soon may reveal a few chinks in their armor and a new player in the game that will turn the tables (even if veteran spy fans could see the double cross coming a mile away).
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” isn’t a wildly inventive spy thriller, as it borrows from many of the same series that I mentioned in the first paragraph. It blends a little “I Spy” with some “James Bond” and tosses in some good old fashioned 60s “Mission Impossible” and even a tad of “Austin Powers” for good measure. The series was a blast due to the interactions between the two mismatched spies, and that’s where a good deal of the fun comes from here as well. Cavill plays a great over sexed James Bond knockoff, contrasting quite nicely against the constantly ticked off Ilya, who has some series daddy issues to fuel his impotent rage. Solo takes great pleasure in taunting the younger Russian strong man, constantly touting his American superiority, while taking quite a few licks along the way from the other side’s aggressive nature. Smooth and charming, meets blunt and aggressive, and the enemy doesn’t stand a chance.
Guy Ritchie has a distinctive flair to his movies, including some of the people he casts in them. Back again is veteran Ritchie actor Jared Harris, playing Solo’s handler and sporting a rather painful Texan (I think?) accent. The film borrows quite a bit from the 60’s TV show, using the same wipes and slide techniques that were so popular back then, as well as infusing the film with a distinctly period piece score that takes precedence of much of the dialog. While he manages to get the flavor of the time, it almost feels as if he couldn’t commit all the way, which leaves a lot on the table. Even though Ilya and Solo face off against each other and act as distinct foil’s, the acting is left desiring and the direction of their feud seems aimless. Armie Hammer is about as flat as a board, and while Cavill is not exactly a bad actor, he’s not given much to work with. Alicia Vikander is not half bad as the half seductress, half innocent Gaby, but her role is mainly as the damsel in distress meets Bond girl, and as such we don’t get to see her stretch he wings like she did in “Ex Machina”. While it doesn’t exactly blast the movie up into the stars, Hugh Grant’s role as the British Intelligence officer Waverly is by far the highlight of the film. His charisma and effortless charm puts a smile on this viewers face and allows the film to take a decidedly upward turn.
Rated PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=59025[/img]The 2.39:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray has nothing to blush about, as it stands head and shoulders (along with the audio) above the mediocre film itself. Delightful and almost playful, the orange and blue color grading for the film is well saturated with the burnished colors of the 60s, adding in a tad of teal to the film as is common with modern color grading and we can call it a day. Fine detail is nothing short of magnificent, as it is set on wonderfully grainy textured film stock. Some shots tend to be a bit soft, as is common with the stock being used, but others show nothing short of perfection in the outcome. There’s a scene with Armie Hammer lying under a crashed motorcycle where you see a close up his face and the amount of detail is just dazzling. You can see every piece of dirt on his face, ever drop of wet rain streaking through the dirt and creases of his cheek, combined with the blades of grass brushing up in the slow motion shot. Black levels are deep and inky, devoid of any digital anomalies, and even though the film has a decidedly dark tone to it, the blacks never go so deep as to emphasize crush.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=59033[/img]Dolby Atmos track are coming at a faster pace than I had previously anticipated with over 5 titles in the last month, ranging from film to TV, have been given the premier treatment. The tracks presented in Atmos are almost always the cream of the crop, and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” proves that track record is not broken to date. The dialog for the spy/thriller is exquisite, with perfect vocal replication and smooth blending in with the quirky 60s inspired score. The score actually takes front stage in many spots, acting as the guide for the film while the dialog fades in and out at the whim of the designer (albeit with constant subtitles for the moments that are intentionally faded). Surrounds are active at all times with all sorts of noises ranging from simply background noises such as a foot scraping along the hallway to the clanking of keys, all the way up to the explosive energy of the hand to hand combat sequences or the end assault on the Island fortress. LFE is intense and accurate, adding plenty of low end to the more aggressive moments as well as accentuating the score and then blending in to the background with as much subtlety as it can muster up.
• The Guys from U.N.C.L.E.
• Spyvision: Recreating the 60's Cool
• A Higher Class of Hero
• Metisse Motorcycles: Proper and Very British
• A Man of Extraordinary Talents
• U.N.C.L.E. : On Set Spy
I won’t say that “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a great movie, it is still a rather entertaining one that actually left me with a strong desire to watch the old 60s TV show once more (especially since it’s just being released on DVD as we speak). It’s mildly charming, but a bit rough around the edges, acting as a suitable introduction to the characters, but unfortunately leaving the audience hanging a bit as the dismal theatrical box office numbers make it obvious a sequel WON’T be around the corner. The visuals are amazing and Dolby Atmos once again leaves us with an incredible audio experience. Worth a watch.
Starring: Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 Core), Spanish, French, Portuguese DD 5.1
Runtime: 116 Minutes
Own The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on Blu-ray Combo Pack or DVD on November 17 or Own It Early on Digital HD on October 27!
Buy The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch
More about Mike