Movie Review: The Man from UNCLE

A lot of movies came out in the past two weeks and I will make an effort to see them. Tomorrow I am going to The End of the Tour, followed by Straight Outta Compton, and The Gift on Sunday. I may see Shaun the Sheep because I love stop-motion animation. I will not see Ricki and the Flash because if you can divine the major character arcs, the beginning, middle, and end of a movie based solely on the trailer, there is no point in seeing it, unless you are a fan of Meryl Streep, which is a valid reason… kind of.

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Guy Ritchie is one of my favorite directors. His best work was Snatch, a London gangster ensemble revolving around a diamond heist. On top of being funny, the film was stylish in its direction. Scorsese would be an apt comparison as Ritchie makes liberal use of slow motion, montages, and unconventional editing. Recently he has fallen by the wayside, but made a steady return to form with RocknRolla and the Sherlock Holmes movies. Is The Man from UNCLE proof of his reemergence or does Ritchie have a ways to go?

Surprisingly, UNCLE is probably the most accessible and conventional movie of his filmography. There is plenty of style and humor reminiscent of Ritchie’s past work, but there is also an obvious sense of restraint.

To thwart a plot by former Nazis to build an atomic bomb, the CIA and KGB set aside their differences and join forces. They each assign one of their best agents: Solo, played by Henry Cavill, and Illya, played by Armie Hammer, to infiltrate the organization. East and West come to a head as the two agents have conflicting interests and methods for completing the mission.

UNCLE feels like Ritchie has grown as a filmmaker in the same sense as Quentin Tarantino. He retains his signature style yet does not go too far. The days of a scene like this are not gone, but used sparingly in exchange for something more normal. When Ritchie indulges himself, it is nonetheless glorious with comic book style paneling, the excessive use of licensed tracks, and humor, especially at one part involving Cavill and a truck.

In terms of a spy movie, UNCLE is like a serious version of Archer, but not too serious like the cancer/rampage episode. Solo even looks like Archer and Illya a Russian version of Barry. It is set up like a buddy cop movie that is funnier than Spy and less boring than 007. The film even has a bit of the early ‘60s charm of classic Bond with stylized car chases and gunfights.

Performances were solid all around. Cavill’s American accent is flawless with a cadence that speaks to his character’s posh nature. Hammer, who should be in more movies, played Solo’s opposite as a pragmatic and unhinged KGB agent. He was believable in the part as his character undergoes the biggest change. Alicia Vikander returns from Ex Machina and makes the most being the ambiguous Gaby. Newcomer Elizabeth Debicki is unrecognizable in the amount of makeup she wears as Victoria, the archetypical femme fatale. She looks like someone to watch out for in the near future.

The main problem with UNCLE is one of tone. While it has a lot of humor, action, and serious moments, there is a lack of balance that needed to be redressed. Some times there is too much or too little, throwing off the movie as it shifts between tone. It makes the experience difficult to sit through at times, but it is more consistent than Fantastic 4.

The Man from Uncle is a good movie. It is simple to understand, easy to get into, and worth a sit. Fans of Guy Ritchie will appreciate how his style has evolved. But if you wish to stay home, as I have said in the last two spy movies I reviewed, you can never go wrong with Archer.

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